Why Blogging Without a Plan Leads to Failure + How to Fix It

  • March 20, 2012 by Guest Writer
  • 41 Comments

This is a guest post from Peter Vogopoulos of Firepole Marketing.

If you run a website or blog for your business, it’s safe to say that you want more traffic and more income.

And it’s also safe to say that you know what you need to do to get more traffic.

And though you know you are supposed to take action, you haven’t gotten around to the “doing” just yet. Hey, I understand. Stuff happens, day-to-day happens and next thing you know, we are 90 days into 2012 and you are not where you want to be. And it’s easy to get frustrated.

Before we get too down on ourselves, let’s just take a second to understand why this happens. Then, I’ll share with you a quick 4-step process to help you get productive and get moving on your traffic goals in just 3 hours a week.

In order to understand why we don’t “do” enough, we first need to understand that there are two types of actions you need to do to get more traffic (or any activity for your business for that matter).

  1. There is the stuff that you do once, which we’ll call “One-Off Activities” (e.g. creating a Facebook Fan Page).
  2. There are things you need to do regularly as part of your traffic strategy, which we’ll call “Recurring Activities” (e.g. connecting, adding fans, posting and updating on Facebook).

A successful traffic strategy requires us to do the “one-off” activities, as well as executing our recurring “traffic task” activities regularly and with consistency.

As you can imagine, once “one-off activities” are completed, they usually beget “recurring activities”, which then become part of our ongoing weekly task routine (like the Facebook Fan page example we just mentioned).

And This is Where the Wheels Fall Off

Not just for getting traffic, but for any project. For most people, two problems come up frequently:

  1. “One-off” activities never get done. They keep getting pushed to the bottom of the pile.
  2. “Recurring” activities are not done with regularity.

Put them together and nothing gets done. And then no kidding, we look at the first 90 days of 2012 with some frustration.

But don’t despair. With a little bit of planning and some strategic organization of your calendar, you can get productive and get moving on your traffic goals in just 3 hours a week.

As mentioned, this post assumes that you already know what you need to do to get more traffic. So, if you have a list of items to execute for your own traffic strategy, that’s great, but if you don’t, you can start with Corbett’s seminal “21 Quick Actions for Massive Blog Success” post.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Block off Time

I want you to set aside a minimum of three, 1-hour blocks of time. Do it now.

Yes, right now. Go on.

Don’t be rueful about this. Most people reading this haven’t blocked off unassailable, committed marketing time in their calendars. I know, because it’s the first thing we ask the students in our Firepole Marketing program to do and most report never having done it before. But we force them to do it. And for good reason. After a few weeks they report back that this one action made a tremendous contribution to their marketing success.

So pull out your calendar and block off three 1-hour blocks. I recommend at least two of the blocks be about 2 or 3 days apart (to allow for thinking and percolating time).

Book it in your calendar as a scheduled appointment and consider it a firm commitment. This time should be “unassailable” and treated with the same level of importance as a client appointment.

As an example, I might block off Monday mornings 8AM to 9AM and 9AM to 10AM (consecutive, but they don’t have to be) and then Thursday afternoons at 3PM.

Step 2: Decide What to Do

Corbett’s got “21 Quick Actions”, and we’ve got three hours a week, so let’s decide which of these will make the biggest impact for our us and choose 5 to 7 items we’ll accomplish in the next 4 weeks.

So let’s say I’ve decided to do the following:

  • Action #1: Start Building an Email List (because I know how important this is)
  • Action #2: Start a Post Ideas Journal (because I want to focus on content)
  • Action #7: Refine and Explain Your Blog’s Unique Selling Proposition (because now is the time to do this, before I get ahead of myself)
  • Action #8: Learn SEO Basics (because you can always get better)
  • Action #17: Interview Someone Influential (because it’s a cool way to get great content)

This is a great start. I’ll feel good if I get a leg up on this. But just deciding isn’t good enough to get stuff done. To execute well, we need to plan.

Step 3: Planning your Steps

This step is hardly ever done, which is a shame. Planning is a lost art.

Planning, is simply figuring out what you need to do in detail and to order those actions. We tend to skip this step, preferring to just “get right into it” and “plan as we go”, instead. This is a horrible way to work. You’ll waste a ton of time wondering what you have to do next, forgetting the sequence of tasks, and so on.

Think about it. Preparing your action plan for four weeks in advance means you don’t need to think what’s next, you just execute. There is no stopping to assess the next steps, no switching gears, no lost momentum.

Plan well now and you’ll execute like a machine for the next 4 weeks.

How do we do this?

List out the steps you need to make these actions a reality. In our case, Corbett’s done all the heavy lifting – he’s told you all the sub-actions with each of his 21 Quick Actions.

Now, I could write out a big ol’ list of to-do’s like so…

  • Sign up for AWeber (10 minutes)
  • Create the sign-up form as per the instructions provided by AWeber  (10 minutes)
  • Place the form on my blog (10 minutes)
  • Download and read Corbett’s guide to refine my unique selling proposition (30 minutes)
  • Review my Journal for blog ideas, choose one and write a draft blog post (60 minutes)
  • Refine a draft, proofread and schedule it. (20 minutes)
  • Schedule a Tweet to promote my latest blog post (5 minutes)
  • Create my freebie – Brainstorm some ideas (15 minutes)
  • Create my freebie – Craft some outlines (15 minutes)
  • Create my freebie – Get feedback from target market and trusted colleagues (30 minutes)
  • Write 2-3 pages of my freebie (30 minutes)
  • Download and read Rand Fishkin’s SEO primer (60 minutes)
  • Apply new SEO techniques to my latest posts (15 minutes)
  • Read Corbett’s post on how to do interviews (15 minutes)
  • Create a list of interview targets (15 minutes)
  • Choose next interview target and pitch them (15 minutes)
  • Check this week’s traffic stats (5 minutes)

But, you’ll agree this is a rather daunting list. Hardly motivating, I’d say. Rather than having my head explode, I’ll compartmentalize my actions along the lines we discussed earlier. First, I’ll separate out the “One-Off” items from the “Recurring” items. Then, I’ll arrange them to fit the time I’ve blocked off in Step 1.

Here is the new list:

One-off Actions (1 x 1 hour per week for 4 weeks)

Week 1

  • Sign up for AWeber (10 minutes)
  • Create the sign-up form as per the instructions provided by AWeber  (10 minutes)
  • Place the form on my blog (10 minutes)
  • Download and read Corbett’s guide to  refine my unique selling proposition (30 minutes)

Week 2

  • Create my freebie – Brainstorm some ideas (15 minutes)
  • Create my freebie – Craft some outlines (15 minutes)
  • Create my freebie – Get feedback from target market and trusted colleagues (30 minutes)

Week 3

  • Download and read Rand Fishkin’s SEO primer (60 minutes)

Week 4

  • Write 2-3 pages of my freebie (30 minutes)
  • Read Corbett’s post on how to do interviews (15 minutes)
  • Create a list of interview targets (15 minutes)

Recurring Actions (2 x 1 hour per week, recurring for next 4 weeks)

1st hour of the week

  • Review my Journal for blog ideas, choose one and write a draft blog post (60 minutes)

2nd hour of the week

  • Refine a draft, proofread and schedule it. (20 minutes)
  • Check this week’s traffic stats (5 minutes)
  • Schedule a Tweet to promote my latest blog post (5 minutes)
  • Apply new SEO techniques to my latest posts (15 minutes)
  • Choose next interview target and pitch them (15 minutes)

Isn’t this much better? It’s broken up to fit the time blocks we blocked off in our calendars. I now have the exact battle plan for the next four weeks, so I am primed and ready to execute.

Step 4: Do the Work

You’ve got it all laid out. No more wondering what to do next. You’ve just got to look at your plan, and execute.

And then cross it off your list and feel satisfaction.

Stay focused for your hour. Don’t get distracted. Set a timer and keep bringing yourself back to the task at hand. If you find this challenging, check out a technique called timeboxing.

What might go wrong?

There may be a few hiccups in the process. The most common one is misjudging how long things will take. Don’t fret and don’t feel pressure because you are suddenly “behind” in your plan. Just continue working on that item in your next “marketing appointment” and learn from it so you become a better planner next time.

Changing the balance of time allocated to “One-Offs” vs. “Recurring”

As you keep completing “One-Off” activities, more and more “Recurring” activities will be added to your list. This is awesome. You want defined, systematized actions to do every week (and maybe eventually, outsource.) This is the bread-and-butter work that will lead to new traffic.

Keep getting better

Now that you’re gaining momentum, keep going! Keep planning on a monthly or four-week basis and soon you’ll look at each planning phase with a lot of excitement because it’s a sign of advancement and reaching your goals.

Getting more out of time

No doubt you are looking for great ideas to make you productive and effective and squeeze the most out of your time. Part of personal development is getting rid of bad habits and replacing them with good ones.

But, have you ever wondered whether adopting a particular habit or behavior is really going to make that much of a difference? Or looking at it differently, have you read or heard about some of the things that other successful people do and wonder if it’s something you should do as well?

Don’t you wish you could distill the list of the habits that are common amongst the most successful entrepreneurs and just start with that? A shortcut, if you will?

Well, over on the Firepole Marketing blog, we thought that’d be pretty cool to find out. So, that is why we are conducting the Firepole Marketing Productive Marketing Survey. Our goal is to crunch the numbers and lay out for you which habits and behaviours are most tightly correlated to success.

Can you help us? Please head over there and fill out the survey? If you do, you will be entered to win some prizes and we’ll notify you about the results, too.

***

Once you’ve done that, come back and share with me what you thought of this planning process. Do you do something similar already or do you have something else that works for you?

Please share in the comments below this post!

Peter Vogopoulos writes at Firepole Marketing.


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Kenny Fabre March 20, 2012 at 6:33 am

Peter

my brother everything is planning, especially when you decide to go out and start running a blog, the reality is you must have a steady solid plan. You must have a great goal for that blog.

Like me I have a solid plan for my blog to be one of the biggest marketing business blogs on the internet, Im following my plan, and the best thing is the universe is letting me know that my plan is working by my results that im getting,

one post at a time, one visitor at a time, one subscriber at a time, one sale at a time, on comment at a time.

YOU CAN MAKE IT!!!!

YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!

:)

Peter Vogopoulos March 20, 2012 at 7:16 am

Corbett, Caleb,

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with your readers today!

Everyone, share with us your productive blog growth tips, we’d love to hear them. And don’t forget to fill out the survey!

Peter

Shayna March 20, 2012 at 7:39 am

Love the breakdown of the mini-actions – reminds me of GTD’s “what’s the next actionable step?” That way, even if say the first two steps take longer than you estimate and you don’t get to the last two, at least you feel accomplished that you COMPLETED two action steps that moved your blog forward, rather than discouraged that you “didn’t finish” that one “big”action.

Peter Vogopoulos March 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm

@ Shayna

Precisely. That’s why it’s also important to forgive yourself if you misjudged the amount of time a certain task would take you. Learn from it and move on. The important thing is that you are making progress.

Thanks for sharing!
Peter

David March 20, 2012 at 8:26 am

In business speak, this article does a very nice job of distinguishing between tactics and strategy: strategy being that which is known already about how to get the traffic and tactics being the implementation of those steps necessary (in the day to day/short term)) to realize the goal. Very practical advice for breaking down time though in short chunks of time, something which is almost necessary I think for doing website work.

Peter Vogopoulos March 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm

@ David

Yesiree. Thanks for pointing out that difference. Making a website popular is about performing certain actions regularly and consistently.

Best,
Peter

Ben Holt March 20, 2012 at 8:51 am

Wonderful post, Peter! It fits well with my own experience.

Everything I do when I’m working my business is setup specifically to get me to complete the next action. My process is to deliberately choose what I need to do next, then block off some time to focus on those specific outcomes.

In blogging, even a relative newcomer is going to crush it with this type of approach. Oh, and always aim for Epic.

Peter Vogopoulos March 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm

@ Ben

Well done! You sound like you embody the practice, so good on you!
Let us know if you’ve got nuggets to share from experience.

And yes, indeed — aim for Epic!

Best of luck on your blogging journey. It’s worth it.
Peter

Emelina Minero March 20, 2012 at 9:00 am

I loved this. One of my problems is focusing and giving myself the full structure that I need to be consistent. So this is perfect, scheduling it in, creating a plan. Thanks! This comes in perfect time because I just decided to re-design the layout, content and mission of one of my blog.

Peter Vogopoulos March 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm

@Emelina

Excellent that the stars aligned to bring this to you when you needed it. I am so happy that you found it useful. Create your plan and let us know how it goes?

Best,
Peter

Stephen Jeske March 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Peter, it’s great how you took an example of Corbett’s and ran with with it. Kind of like “how to implement planning”… no that’s too weird.

But I think that a lot of people don’t take time to plan because it doesn’t “feel” like we’re doing anything. I think that a simple plan well executed is far better than a complex plan with no execution.

People that aren’t use to planning anything should take small steps as they work to incorporate the activity into their routine. Planning works but only if done consistently, along with the execution of said plan, that is!

Peter Vogopoulos March 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm

@Stephen

“How to implement planning” is actually pretty good!

And yes, you hit the nail on the head. Once we know the “what”, we don’t work out the “how” because we figure it’s much more productive to just “do”. But that is a monumental error, of course.

Thanks for adding your suggestion to getting into the habit of planning. Very useful!

Peter

“The beginning is the most important part of the work” — Plato.

Vijay March 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Yesterday I was thinking that almost 90days have passed in this year and I haven’t reached my goals.

I decided to plan a little better and today see this timely article.

excellent article and very simple too.

After reading this, I realized What I was missing from my plan.. The tasks were vague and not specific in my plan..
I opened my plan immediately after reading this and updated it with the exact specific action to be taken. It felt good. Now execution should be easy.

Thanks for the timely article.

Peter Vogopoulos March 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm

@Vijay

Well, this warms my heart to read, it does.
Keep kickin’ it!

Peter

Dean Soto March 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Peter you are a mind reader! Love this guest post. I was just trying to figure out ways to move from one-offs to recurring when it comes to my blog.

I love how you break everything down from deciding on the big-wins to actually how to get them done systematically. I can see how this can easily create the habit of creating recurring content and value added additions to your blog/business.

Timeboxing is genius, too. Been using the Pomodoro method for a while now and it totally works.

Great post.

Jessica March 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Hi, it’s useful post and if we follow this we’ll achieve our goals, but… how we can predict time which we need to complete tasks? If I do something first time how long it’ll take. And personally I still don’t know how long will take me writing post:)

Peter Vogopoulos March 22, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Hi Jessica,

Excellent question. The answer is: you start with your best guess and then learn from it.

That’s why I insist you don’t berate yourself if something took longer and you start falling behind in your “plan”. Poop happens. Pay attention to what happened. Did you completely blow the estimate? Or did something usual occur this time around.

With experience, you get better at estimating the time required for tasks and your plans will become more accurate.

Hope this helps!
Peter

Peter Vogopoulos March 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm

@ Dean

Wicked. This stuff works if done consistently and systematically.

When I work with clients, we”ll typical work up to planning in 90-day increments (4 planning sessions a year). For most solo businesses and web-based businesses, 4-week/monthly plans are perfect.

Thanks for commenting!
Peter

Ricardo Bueno March 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm

I block off my writing time daily. By now, I’ve learned what times I’m most productive during the day. I use Repeat Timer Pro on my iPhone to time myself while I’m writing (similar to the Pomodoro Technique, only I use a shorter length of time). That one little act, has increased my productivity a lot.

Peter Vogopoulos March 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Thanks for sharing, Ricardo. Nothing like a timer to force us to focus on our task.

Joe Elliott March 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Hi Corbett,

Great post, it’s good to see what others do and compare to your own, see if you can enhance :)

Like Peter said I have found working in 90 day increments rather than a week by week basis.

When you see it at the beginning of the quater your like, “Ive got to do what” lol but by half way through it seems a bit lighter lol.

Thanks Again, Talk Soon
Joe

Peter Vogopoulos March 22, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Hi Joe,

Glad you liked the post. Really, whatever timeframe that works for you is best. I like 90 days because it’s long enough to be able to plan meaty goals, but short enough to instill a sense of urgency.

Peter

Paul Herrera March 20, 2012 at 6:09 pm

As usual, great job Peter

Peter Vogopoulos March 22, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Paul!
Can’t believe I’d bump into you here of all places. Cripes, buddy, we should grab a beer.
Peter

Okto March 20, 2012 at 6:43 pm

What a long post :)

I like think traffic that’s why I read this great post :) . You described useful practical plan to follow thanks for that. I am with the title .. no plans = failure.

In my experience my plan is my direction. I can meassure what is my strenght and what is my weakness. Thus I need to improve on my “weakness”.

I believe many blogger already have their own plan, but when they fail they start to look for new directions, new plan that can be fit with their blogging plan’s.

And this great post by Peter Vogopoulos can be evaluation of our own plan. Thanks Peter.

Peter Vogopoulos March 22, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Okto,
You are most welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.
Peter

Latha March 21, 2012 at 4:15 am

I was refereed by a friend. I think this is just what I required.

Peter Vogopoulos March 22, 2012 at 9:09 pm

So glad to hear, Latha. Cuirious to know.. how so?

Chris March 21, 2012 at 6:21 pm

The 6 P’s, “Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance” It even applies to blogging, who knew! This is incredibly helpful as sometimes I feel like I am just “clicking around” and not actually accomplishing anything. I honestly never thought of creating a plan, now to do that and then STICK TO IT! Wish me luck!

Chris

Peter Vogopoulos March 22, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Chris,
The 6Ps seem universal, don’t they? :-D
I will wish you luck and I insist you come back and tell us how it went.
See, now you’ve got accountability built in, too.
Looking forward to hearing about what you accomplished.
Best,
Peter

Timo Kiander March 22, 2012 at 1:47 am

Peter,

Great and practical stuff here!

The benefit of this is that as a byproduct, you have a system to follow.

Then you just tweak it, possibly eliminate things you are not required to do or even outsource some parts of this.

This makes you even more productive.

Cheers,
Timo

Peter Vogopoulos March 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Folks, when my friend Timo adds his insights on a productivity topic, you should read carefully as he is *the* productivity man.

The absolutely logical extension of this topic (which occured to me as I was writing it and didn’t elaborate more fully as it was getting really long), was exactly what you just said: once you’ve laid out the plan, you can now easily systemize it through outsourcing.

In fact, if you continuous do more and more one-off activities, which beget more and more recurring activities, you can do otherwise — you’re going to run out of time in your “recurring activities” timeblock.

Thanks for the inspiration, Timo.
Peter

Janny Manla March 23, 2012 at 1:43 am

This is such practical, simple to follow guide on how to maximize time and get more things done in a more efficient manner. Thank you for such a fabulous post!

Deepti Panuganti April 13, 2012 at 1:43 am

Awesome Blog!!! I think your blog is a One-Sto-Shop for newbies like me. I have just completed 10 posts on my blog and am currently working on my USP.

I’m Lovin It!

ralph@cantankerousoldcoots April 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm

This is an awesome block of information for a blogger, new or not so new. Being systematic and focused about what needs to be done to operate a growing blog is essential information and not something you can wing.

Peter Vogopoulos March 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm

continuous > continuously
can > can’t

Sheesh. I was too quick on the submit button and didn’t proofread enough. That and it’s far too late to be commenting. :-)

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