How To Plan Your Blog Content (So You Always Know Exactly What To Write About)

How to plan your blog content - so you always know exactly what to write about. Includes a blog content planner workbook to help you create content that converts! Click through to download.

Most people I know fall into one of two categories when it comes to their blog content struggles – either they have too many ideas and can't focus on a niche or they have a niche but struggle to consistently come up with ideas. Personally, I've been in both positions at one point or another, but as of a few months ago, I finally figured out my sweet spot. It only took like 6 years…

For the purposes of this post I'm going to assume that you're a blogger / biz owner who wants to grow their audience and grow their sales. Which is probably most people – because blogging “just for fun” seems very 2009 to me. And now I feel old.

Understand your “why”

Your blog has a purpose. When you're planning your content, it's helpful to remember your “why” – what are you trying to accomplish through your blog? I blog to share my knowledge with my audience, to build trust with them, to humanize my brand, and to promote the products and services that I offer. I don't blog about what I did over the weekend or what color nail polish I'm wearing (anymore) because I know that's not something that my audience really cares about. When I plan my content I ONLY think about the topics that will educate, inspire, or entertain my audience in a way that relates to my purpose. 

Sometimes you need to go wide first

Everyone in the world is probably telling you to focus on a niche. BUT – I also think that sometimes you need to explore a lot of things to figure out what you really want to blog about. Same goes for your target audience – you NEED a target audience, but I actually don't think it's a bad thing if you work with a number of different types of people in different industries at first. You may even realize that you don't actually want to work with the people you thought you wanted to work with!

In relation to your blog content, it may help to start with a brain dump of ALL THE THINGS you could write about in relation to your “why” – with a ton of ideas, you will probably see a few different categories emerge, and then you can narrow down your specific post topics from there. You could also skip the brain dump and start with a few select categories and only think about post ideas that fit into those specific categories – whatever works for you!

What do you know?

The awesome thing about knowing your purpose and knowing your target audience is that once you have these things in place, blogging is easier. If you know what they want to know, you always have something to share. How do you know what they want to know? If you already have clients / customers, think about the questions that they ask.  If you're just starting out, stalk them do a little research wherever they hangout – search Facebook groups, observe twitter chats, creep on Instagram, etc. And chances are, YOU relate to your target audience in some way, so think about the things that you wish you had known 2 or 3 years ago!

I literally keep a running list in Evernote of FAQs – not only because one day I may actually create a FAQ page, but also because it helps me come up with blog post ideas. I currently have so many blog post ideas that I will probably never get around to using them all, but that's not such a bad problem to have!  If someone in your target audience asks a question in a Facebook group or in a Periscope comment or in a one-on-one meeting, write it down! You'll be surprised by how many ideas you will come up with just by LISTENING. 

Make the most of what you already have

If you've been blogging for a while, you should be paying attention to analytics. Your old blog posts can tell you what topics your audience is really interested in – I keep track of not only which posts get the most traffic, but also the posts that get the most engagement (comments, social shares, opt-ins) and the posts that result in the most revenue. Think about how you can expand on those popular posts to write new content. For example, 10 ways to grow your instagram following was my most popular post in 2015, so last week I posted 3 more instagram strategies. I also included a content upgrade for both of these posts with a checklist of the 8 things you should be doing for every instagram post, and as of today, that content upgrade is converting around 50% which is a nice bonus!

Your blog has a purpose. When you're planning your content, it's helpful to remember your “why” – what are you trying to accomplish through your blog?Click To Tweet

Create a schedule that works for you

If we rewind back to 2010, you'd see I was the type of blogger that went from posting 5 days a week to once every other month… I lost a lot of my audience and a lot of subscribers during that period because I was so inconsistent. Don't be like the old me. If you can't regularly publish a new post 5 days a week, don't try. Pick one day, two days, three days… most people would agree that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to blogging these days, and personally, I'd rather see one really valuable post a week from someone than several “meh” posts. If you only have 10 hours a week to work on your blog and it takes you 5 hours to complete a post, basic math would tell you to do 2 posts per week… but that doesn't account for all of the OTHER things that go into blogging – social media, networking, community building, photography/design, and editorial planning are only some of the other things that you may need to find time to do, so make sure you factor in time for all of your tasks!

Back to the point

Or perhaps I should say, back to your purpose – every blog post you write should have a clear call to action that directly relates to your purpose. Whether you are asking a question to encourage discussion or directing your blog readers to buy your product or you are telling them to click on a link to download a freebie, you don't want your audience to walk away without doing something.

A few helpful tools

To plan my blog content I (currently) use Asana to brainstorm post ideas and for my specific tasks / project management. That sounds like a lot of tools for one end result, but it's the system that works best for me (and all of those tools are free)! Before you get into ANY of that, you should have a solid blog content plan in place – by creating a plan, you will be able to better address the needs of your target audience, focus on creating content that converts, and streamline your blog workflow! I've put together workbook of blog planning exercises to help get you started which you can download for free below!

3 strategies to quickly double your instagram (how we grew to 30,000 followers in 2 months)

Double Your Instagram - the exact strategies we used to grow from 15,000 to 30,000 followers in just 2 months plus a free checklist of the 8 things you should be doing for every instagram post!

About 2 months ago I shared 10 ways to grow your instagram following detailing the exact ways I grew my dog's instagram account from 0 to 15,000 followers last year. It was my most popular post of 2015 (thanks to Pinterest!), so I'm sharing an update now that Mochi's instagram following has doubled from 15,000 to 30,000 in just 2 months! Use these strategies to double your Instagram followers!

Let's back up for a moment – in case your wondering, “why this post is about your dog?” As a digital marketing strategist, I consult AND manage a number of different Instagram accounts, but for privacy reasons it would be weird for me to give you a behind the scenes look at the growth of my clients' accounts. So my dog's account is like a “test account” where I can show you her exact statistics and share the strategies that I've used to grow her account. Also, she monetizes her account as a digital influencer and plans to utilize her Instagram account to sell her own products this year, so I'll be sharing a look at exactly how that works in future posts. Seriously though, if MY DOG can earn an income from Instagram, you can too!

Don't miss: 10 Ways to Grow Your Instagram Following

First of all, I'll say it was definitely easier to grow from 15,000 to 30,000 than it was to grow from 0 to 15,000 – in part because I had mastered these 10 things, but also because I think when people see “popular” accounts they think, “Oh! If all these other people are following along, I should too!” I say this not to discourage anyone who is starting from 0, but rather to say, it DOES get easier! 

Planoly - best visual Instagram scheduling tool

3 strategies to quickly double your instagram

The TL;DR version is we incorporated seasonal content, were strategic about repost potential, and changed up the timing of some of our posts.

In November of 2015, I set a goal of growing from 15,000 to 25,000 by the end of the year. I didn't really have any plans to change our Instagram strategy because I knew 25,000 was attainable given her growth rate at the time. But we hit the goal a few weeks ahead of schedule so I thought about what (intentionally or not) I had done differently during this period. She's now averaging 2,000+ net new followers per week so we're on track to hit 100,000 this year!  

How @mochiandthecity grew her instagram account to 30,000 followers

Incorporate seasonal content

Sharing seasonal content is not a new idea when it comes to blogging or marketing in general, but I didn't really think it would have as much of an effect on Mochi's instagram growth. It's true though – people LOVE seasonal content! We shared a photo of her Halloween costume that got high engagement, so I wanted to be more intentional about sharing holiday photos in December – and I'm so glad I did because a few posts like this little Santa outfit was featured in the Huffington Post and this photo in front of our Christmas tree resulted in several hundred new followers. I am really selective of the sponsored content we share, but this ad we did for Walgreens was also particularly good for exposure as it was timely for the holiday season.

Assuming you are probably not going to go dress up as Santa for instagram photos (or if you are, that's cool too), there are still a lot of ways you can incorporate seasonal content into your Instagram posts. If you are a blogger or small business owner, seasonal content could be anything like… the best boots to wear in the winter / a Valentine's Day gift guide / DIY Easter decorations / ten recipes for 4th of July BBQs / tips for making the most of your summer vacation / the ultimate to fall nail polish / holiday essentials for the busy entrepreneur. Kind of a random list there, but you get it. Seasonal content is shareable content because its relevant and relatable!

Many accounts repost photos from their community, so take a look at some of the popular accounts to see the types of photos they tend to repost, and use their hashtags strategically. Click To Tweet

Be strategic about repost potential

One thing that I did do strategically was that in November I made a list of hashtags to use that would increase Mochi‘s exposure. I looked for accounts that reposted dog photos and specifically made lists of 1) niche pet accounts with over 100,000 followers and 2) dog-friendly brands with over 50,000 followers. I took a look at their feeds to determine the types of photos that seemed to get reposted more often (for example, outdoor photos vs. indoor, close up vs. wide angle, funny vs. heartwarming) and then strategically posted these types of photos with relevant hashtags.

One example is West Elm (650,000+ followers) – a dog-friendly brand that often posts photos of furry pals on their main instagram account as well as their smaller city specific accounts. We happen to have a lot of West Elm furniture, so I use their hashtag #mywestelm on any photos of Mochi that we post that include West Elm furniture. Since most of our photos are taken in our apartment, this was an obvious choice, and it paid off because on Cyber Monday West Elm reposted this photo of Mochi and a couple of the store accounts like West Elm LA and West Elm St. Louis have also reposted her photos which is pretty cool.

Another example is Dogs and Pals (300,000+ followers) – this niche dog community reposts select photos with their hashtag and I noticed that whoever curates their account seems to like photos that are close up vs. far away and photos of dogs looking cozy in bed seem to be featured often. Most of our photos of Mochi are close up + cuddly, so I started using their hashtag more intentionally, and sure enough about 4 weeks ago they reposted this photo.

No matter who your audience is, there are probably accounts in your niche with larger followings. Many accounts repost photos from their community, so take a look at some of the popular accounts to see the types of photos they tend to repost, and use their hashtags strategically. You can check out a few great posts on hashtags for creatives / bloggers / entrepreneurs, here, here and here

@mochiandthecity best times to post on instagram analytics

Don't Be Afraid to Change Things Up 

The last thing that we did during this period to double Mochi's instagram following was somewhat accidental. Mochi was posting twice a day on a pretty regular schedule – I look at her analytics in Iconosquare regularly, and had identified the times with the highest engagement, so I pretty much stuck to them. During December we were traveling for the holidays and with everything going on plus a time difference, I posted at a few random times and thought – oh well, if her engagement is low, I won't be upset. It turns out the opposite happened and a few of those random times led to some of her highest engagement ever PLUS brought in a stream of new followers. You'll see on the chart above a large dot on Sunday around 4pm when we posted this photo and around 11pm when we posted this photo.

These are not times on her “typical” schedule, but to be honest, I had stuck to the same schedule for the past 3-4 months. In that period, she gained almost 20,000 new followers, so of course her “best” times to post may have changed! I am going to make more of an effort to experiment with timing moving forward as her audience grows.

So those are the 3 “new” strategies I used to double Mochi's instagram following from 15,000 to 30,000 in two months – but as I mentioned, I also continued to do these 10 things. I've enjoyed documenting her progress, so perhaps I'll share another update later this year when she hits bigger milestones like 50,000 or 100,000. It's still a little crazy to me that SO MANY people follow her (I mean, she's super cute, but she's not exactly providing life changing content to the world), though it's also cool to see her grow as a brand – she currently earns a small but consistent income, and has BIG plans for 2016!

P.S. You should probably be following Mochi already. And if you haven't been planning your Instagram feed in advance (so you KNOW it's going to look good!) – click the link below to try my favorite Instagram scheduling tool!

Planoly - best visual Instagram scheduling tool

How To Set Goals (And Actually Achieve Them)

Goal Setting for 2016: how to set goals and actually achieve them. 6 tips on setting goals for the new year for bloggers, entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Happy New Year! I feel very “adult” after a low-key New Year's Eve celebration (wine, puppies, and my favorite people). I planned to do a year end wrap up post but decided to skip it in favor of some must-needed r&r during the holidays. I have been busy behind the scenes planning for 2016.

In the spirit of the new year, let's talk about goals. I'm firmly in the camp that resolutions are lame and if you want to change something about your life (like work out more or drink diet coke less), you should START NOW and not wait until some day in the future. I'm sure there's some statistic about what percentage of people actually stick to their New Year's resolutions and I'd be willing to bet its not high. If you want to start the year fresh and make resolutions, I'll cheer ya on, but if you actually want to accomplish big things in 2016, let's make some goals.

I am a big believer in goal setting – and by that I mean making specific plans to achieve specific results.

I think “goals” sometimes get lumped in with resolutions on the list of seemingly pointless personal growth strategies, and some might argue they are basically the same thing but I disagree. Resolutions to me are like “trying” – I HATE trying. Trying is not doing.

When I worked in finance, we had one-on-one meetings with our managers at the beginning of the year to set business goals as well as personal development goals. We literally had to write them down on a piece of paper, talk about them out loud, and then map out a plan to achieve them. I still do this with my own business and personal goals except I type them out in a google doc instead of writing them down on paper (I kind of hate paper) and tell my husband instead of my manager (even if he forgets, it makes me feel more accountable when I tell someone else out loud).

HOW TO SET GOALS AND ACTUALLY ACHIEVE THEM

The most important part of goal setting (and somehow the part that most people skip) is mapping out a plan to achieve your goals! It's silly to set a goal of getting 100,000 pageviews or making $100,000 and then just hope that happens. Seriously, don't do that!

Personally, I like to start the year making a handful of goals (3-5) that seem kind of crazy. Like just beyond my reach crazy, not in another universe crazy. In the past, these goals have been things like make enough money freelancing to quit my day job, save enough money to move to NYC, and grow my dog's instagram to over 10,000 followers. (pats self on back – I've accomplished all of these things!) When I first set these goals, they all seemed a little scary / beyond my reach, but they drove me to work harder/smarter and accomplish more than if I were to set easily attainable goals.

After setting a few big goals, I break them down into smaller goals with “deadlines” throughout the year which makes things seem much less scary and much more attainable. I also like to celebrate when I achieve the smaller goals with fun little things like buying a new lipstick or indulging in a big Levain cookie. Or both.

But enough about me, what are your goals for 2016? If you still haven't set them, here are a few tips for setting goals and actually accomplishing them.

Limit The Number Of Goals You Set

If you set too many goals, you'll be less likely to achieve any of them. Don't stretch yourself too thin. Set 1 or 2 personal goals and 1 or 2 professional goals. Think about the things that you REALLY want to achieve – the things that will change your life or help your business grow. For example, if you want to grow your social media following, don't try to gain 10,000 new followers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Periscope and Snapchat all at the same time. Focus on 1 or 2 networks (preferably the ones where your ideal clients hang out) and grow those first.

Set SMART Goals

You've probably heard of SMART goals and while they sound kind of gimmicky, there's a reason they are a thing. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely – by setting SMART goals, you force yourself to be more definitive which makes you more likely to achieve your goals! For example, one of my goals for 2016 is for Mochi to reach 50,000 instagram followers by the end of the year (note: I can't believe I just admitted that). I know it sounds slightly crazy that one of my goals is having MY DOG reach 50,000 followers, but she currently has over 28,000 so this is realistic since she has been consistently gaining hundreds of new followers per week. I actually track her follower growth daily, so I know if she gets less than 100 new followers in a day, I will put more effort into the photos I post for the next couple of days to make sure she stays on track to reach her goals. (p.s. you should totally be following Mochi already)

The most important part of goal setting (and somehow the part that most people skip) is mapping out a plan to achieve your goals!Click To Tweet

Break Your Annual Goals Down Into Smaller Goals

While I do set goals for the year, I find that it's even more important to set smaller goals for each month and quarter. Even if you're not starting at zero, your end goal should feel pretty far away – and it's easy to get discouraged and feel like you'll never get there if you don't set smaller, manageable goals in the meantime. One of the things I want to focus on for 2016 is growing my email list. It's currently growing at a rate of around 500 net new subscribers per month, but I know there are a lot of other things that I could be doing to grow it even faster. My goal is an additional 12,000 subscribers in 2016 and I've broken that down into 3,000 new subscribers per quarter or 1,000 new subscribers per month. 1,000 sounds much less daunting than 12,000 so instead of thinking about my big goal, I plan to focus on my smaller goal each month.

Break Your Smaller Goals Down Into Specific Tasks

Once you've set your smaller goals, you need to create a plan to map out the specific actions you are going to take to achieve them. For example, in order to hit my email subscriber goals, I need to increase the activities that I'm doing to drive people to opt-in. I plan to increase the number of blog posts with content upgrades I do each month because these have resulted in the majority of my current subscribers. Additionally, I am implementing a more strategic social sharing plan for my free course, and in January, I plan to test a few other strategies like webinars, guest posting, and giveaways. Based on the results of those efforts, I'll tweak my strategy moving forward to optimize my list building activities for the rest of the year.

Remember Why You Set Your Goals

When you set your goals for the year, you need to be clear on your “why” – If you want to grow your blog traffic to 100,000 monthly pageviews, why do you want to grow it? Probably not just because you just want pageviews. Maybe you know that if you have higher traffic, you'll earn more affiliate commissions. Or if you have higher traffic, you can command higher sponsored post rates. Or if you have higher traffic, you can introduce your service to more people who will potentially become clients. Remembering your “why” will help to keep you focused on your end goals and prioritize the actions you take to achieve your goals.

Track Your Progress Regularly

Stay on top of your goals by tracking them regularly. Regularly means at least monthly, but depending on your goals you could track things weekly or even daily. Tracking progress may not seem like much fun, but it can actually save you a ton of time. By tracking your progress, you will be more aware of what's working and what's not – then you can do more of what's working and stop wasting your time doing things that aren't helping you achieve your goals. I know there are a lot of people who get a lot of traffic from Facebook. I am not one of them. I could put more effort into my Facebook page (or really any effort, to be honest), but my time is better spent focusing on Pinterest and Instagram because I know these two networks are actually driving consistent, quality traffic to my site. No matter what your goals are, tracking your progress will help to keep you accountable and focused throughout the year!

Let's Do This

Ok, so where do I do all this goal setting and tracking? Honestly, I currently just have a google doc with my goals and subgoals mapped out and then a set weekly reminder to make sure I track progress for everything in a google spreadsheet.