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9 Different Things to Help You Blog Smart

ProBlogger is designed to help bloggers reach their potential along with how to monetize and build a sustainable blog, but I am also interested in blogs that change people’s lives.


Today’s show is a continuation of episode 102 where I talked about how many bloggers start out blogging from the heart while others have a strategic, clinical formula.

The last podcast told the story of two bloggers who took these very different approaches. Both were ready to give up because neither approach tends to work alone. You have to blog with heart and have a strategy for success.

In the last episode I suggested 7 ways to add heart and soul to your blog, and today I’m going to suggest 9 different ways to be strategic with your blogging.

In Today’s Episode 9 Different Ways to Be Strategic with Your Blogging

  • If you want your blog to be a business – treat it as one, change your mindset and treat your blog as a business today
  • Have goals – If you don’t know what you are aiming for you won’t get far, define what success means to you, write down your goals then use as a filter for what you do
  • Be strategic about your reader – do some work to understand who your reader is and what their needs, challenges, and dreams are, create an avatar as in episode 33
  • Know about your brand – What do you want your brand to be, define what you want people to say about you when you are not in the room
  • Develop an editorial strategy – Don’t just write whatever pops into your head, put some strategy behind your content
    • Define the change you are trying to bring about and map out the strategy
    • What type of content will your readers respond to, think strategically about what mediums get the best response
    • Think strategically about the length and frequency of content
    • Experiment, learn and adapt
  • Think about marketing – move beyond the build it and they will come strategy
    • Where are your potential readers gathering? How can you participate in those places? What new technologies are they using, adapt your approach.
    • What type of content do you need to create to attract these readers and get them to share. Check out episode 34 on shareable content.
  • Hooks – How will you get them to connect and keep coming back. Find a hook to get your readers to come back.
    • Ask them to subscribe, (for us email lists are always #1) and find secondary points of connection.
    • Keep in mind what comes after they subscribe, find a process to lead them through
  • Monetization – How are you going to make your blog sustainable? Research available strategies, I give a money map in episode 37 that lists a whole bunch of different ways to monetize. Building something of your own is a good option. Diversifying is a good strategy.
  • Constantly be experimenting, tweaking and evolving – Run constant experiments on all of these different areas.

These strategies may sound overwhelming, but just pick one area to focus on. Goal setting or branding can be great methods for kicking off your blog strategy. Then move on to the editorial strategy, or marketing, or whatever you need to fill in the gaps.

Further Resources on Strategic Blogging Combined with Blogging from the Heart

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Hi there and welcome to episode 103 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind, a blog that is really designed to help bloggers to reach their potential, to monetize their blogs, to build sustainable blogs but I’m also really interested in blogs that change people’s lives as well. That’s what ProBlogger is all about and that’s what this episode is about today, too. How do you actually build a blog that is successful? How do you build a blog that has success?

It’s a continuation, really, of the last episode. If you haven’t listened to that, I would encourage you to go back and listen to episode 102 as well in which I introduced these 2 different approaches to blogging that I see many bloggers taking. A lot of bloggers start out blogging with this attitude that, “I’ll just go blog from the heart and opportunities will come to me.” Other bloggers start blogging saying, “I’m going to start blogging strategically, very clinically. I’m going to follow a formula and then I’ll have success.”

I told a story in the last episode of two bloggers that I met who had taken these two very different approaches—one blogging from the heart, one blogging strategically—and both of them ended up wanting to give up their blogs because they realized that they’re taking those extreme approaches to blogging, with one blog without any real strategy and one blog without any real heart, and neither was successful as a result. Neither approach tends to work alone. In the last episode, I suggested seven ways that you can add heart and soul to your blog.

If you haven’t listened to that, you might want to pause this one and go back and listen to that because I think those seven strategies really give some context to what I want to talk about today. Today, I want to suggest nine different areas that you can be strategic about with your blogging but my worry is that if you haven’t taken on some of these heartfelt stuff, that today’s episode is going to come across very clinical. It’s going to come across a little bit too strategic and I think it needs to be held together with the heartfelt stuff.

My experience is that when you add the heart and the strategy together, you build something that not only touches people but touches people and then leads them to take action. That helps you build something sustainable for you which also serves them better in the long-term as well. Sometimes when you talk about strategy alone without the heartfelt stuff, you can end up building something that purely is there to serve you and doesn’t actually serve your readers. I think that heartfelt stuff really needs to sit with the strategy for you to have that long-term success, success that not only serves you but serves your readers which comes around just of you as well.

Today, I want to talk about nine different things that it means to blog smart. These are nine different things I would encourage you to at least have strategy on or at least have some thought behind. I’m not going to go into great detail in each of them. I will mention some other episodes along the way that you can go back and listen if there’s an area you want to explore further but these are the nine different things that I would encourage you to jot down as we go through them and then ask yourselves some questions about, “Do you have a strategy in these areas?”

The first one is something I actually talked about a couple of episodes ago so I will brush over it fairly quickly but it really is really important if you want to build a business around your blog. It’s this statement, “If you want your blog to be a business, treat it as one.” We talked about this in episode 100. If you take the attitude that one day your blog might become a business, then one day it might but it might not, too. You really need to change your mindset and treat your blog as a business today. Act accordingly. Change that mindset today and start acting as if your blog is a business today. That is probably the first place that you really need to get your head around on.

This is something that I know a lot of blogs really do struggle with because they do start with that heartfelt approach to blogging. “It’s just self-expression. I just want to pour out my heart on my blog.” That’s totally fine. That’s a great place to start but if you do want this to be a sustainable, profitable thing, then the day will come when you will need to make a bit of a mindshift on that. It’s better to do that right up front. If you want your blog to be a business, treat it as one today.

The second thing is kind of related to that first one. That is something that I hear people encourage people to do when they’ve got a business of any kind is to have goals. If you don’t know where you’re aiming for, you are unlikely to get far. If you haven’t defined what success means to you, then how will you ever know if you’ve ever achieved that and how do you know which direction to start striving in to take you to a place of success?

Do some work today on defining what success means to you. Write down your goals. Be crystal clear about them. Once you know what your goals are, you can then use those goals as a filter for what you do. That’s the best thing for me about having a goal. By knowing what my goal is, I can then filter the opportunities that do come my way and I can make informed decisions about how to spend my time. Write down your goals. Have them somewhere where you will see them everyday next to you.

Number three is to be strategic about your reader. Actually know who they are. Do some work on trying to understand who your reader is, who that person is on the other side of your Google Analytics stats. Understand who they are. Understand their needs. Understand their challenges. Understand their dreams. These things are very important. Create a reader at avatar or a persona. I explained how to do this back in episode 33. I think it’s probably one of the best exercises that you can do.

Whether you are a new blogger or an old blogger, understand who it is that you are trying to reach. By understanding them, you’re in a much better position to serve them, to create content that touches their heart, that actually makes their lives better, that heartfelt stuff we were talking about last episode but that doesn’t just happen. You just need to put yourself in a position where you can understand who they are. Also, do some thinking about how you’re trying to impact that person. What change are you trying to bring about in their life?

This is something that you just need to really do once early on and then keep doing. You need to define who it is that you’re trying to reach and then periodically coming back to researching who they are because over time, you might find that that reader avatar changes a little. Maybe your readers become a little bit more experienced, maybe they’ve become older. You want to keep on top of—who it is that is reading your blog. One of the things that I do on both of my blogs is an annual survey of my readers just to test whether that reader is still reader or whether there’s a new segment of readers coming through. Know your reader.

Number four area that you want to think about strategically is your brand. Jeff Bezos says, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” That’s a great definition of a brand but to me, it feels very passive. It almost feels like you’ve got no control over that. It’s just what people say about us. On some levels, that is true. People do make their own decisions about what they think about you, about what they think of you, and what they share with other people.

But what do you want people to say about you? What do you want your brand to be? By defining what you want your brand to be, what you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room, you’re in a much better position to create that, to live that, to be that. Don’t just hope that that brand emerges and that it’s a positive thing.

Determine what you want to be seen for doing and start building that. The more clarity around what you want your brand to be, the better position you’ll be in to build that and to have that actually happen. Do some thinking about your brand. Write a few sentences about it. What do you want to be known for? What do you want to be seen as being different as a result of? By determining that, you’d be in a much better position to build that brand.

The fifth area that I encourage you to really put some time aside to thinking through is to develop an editorial strategy. Most bloggers when they start out sit down and write content that’s at the top of their brain. Then they publish their content and hadn’t put a whole heap of thought into that. In some ways, that’s a good thing because it comes from the heart and that comes through in your writing but there will come a point when you want to build a blog, a long-term, profitable blog, where you’ll need to put some strategy behind your content and your editorial approach.

One of the best things that you can do—I’ve talked about this numerous times already in this podcast—is define what kind of change you are trying to bring to your readers. Map out that big change. Where do you want your readers to be taken from and to? What’s that change look like and then start to fill in the blanks with the content that you create. One of the best exercises I ever did is to decide.

Digital Photography School, my main blog, is about helping my readers get out of automatic mode with their cameras and to get creative control of their cameras. To actually fill in the gaps, I sat for an afternoon and brainstormed over 200 different things that someone would need to learn to get from point A to point B. That was one of the best things that I ever did on Digital Photography School because it gave me a road map of the kind of content that I wanted to create.

It enabled me to create content that didn’t just help radically, it actually took my readers on a journey from point A to point B. Really, think carefully about that journey that you are trying to take your readers on. What process are you trying to lead them through? What do they need to know, to experience, to believe for them to get from point A to point B?

Then think strategically about the type of content that your readers respond to as well. What type of content makes them comment? What type of content makes them share? What type of content do they ignore? What topics seem to really hit the mark with them, that get them excited? What mediums do they respond to best? Do they respond best to the written word, podcast, YouTube clips, or whatever it might be?

Then, also think strategically about near the links of your content, the frequency of your content. There’s no one type of content that is going to hit the mark with every type of blog. You need to think strategically. You need to experiment and test different types of content—different links, different frequency of posts. Experiment with different types of content. Watch what happens when you put that content out there. Test those things. Learn from those tests and then adapt.

The first couple of years of Digital Photography School for me were experimenting with all types and different types of content. We did a lot of videos. We had long posts, short posts. We had two posts a week. We had 10 posts a week. We tried all these different things and we eventually learned what our readers respond to best.

So now, once we do the other things from time to time, we know what is tried and true. We know what our readers are going to respond to and what they need, and we’re in a much better position to serve them with the content that we create because we’ve done a lot of that experimenting in the early days. If you’re just starting out, do a lot of experiments. Watch out what works well and repeat that, build on that.

The sixth area I encourage you to do some thinking around, and again there’s some podcast that you can go back and listen to on this, is marketing. Don’t have “a build it and they will come” mentality. Don’t do that. Just building a great blog with great content, that’s just half of it. You need to get off your blog. You need to go out there and put your content in front of people.

Ask yourselves some questions like, “Where are your potential readers gathering? What social networks are they using? What are the blogs that they’re using? What forums are they reading and participating in? How can you develop a presence in those places?” That stuff doesn’t just happen. You need to be strategic about it. You need to put time aside to promote yourself, to write this post, to participate in forums, to participate in social media. Assign some resources, whether that be your own time and energy or would that be hiring someone to help you with that.

The other thing I’ll say with this is it’s not just good enough to ask this question once. Things shift. Your readers may have been on Facebook two years ago but right now they might be on Snapchat, or they might be on Pinterest, or they might be on Instagram, or they might be somewhere else altogether. You need to continually ask yourself that question. Where are my readers gathering now? What new technologies are they using? Where’s the cutting edge? Where are things moving towards? How can I adapt to my approach?

This is something that we’re constantly doing on my blogs. It’s realizing that our readers aren’t where they used to be. We need to continually push and experiment with our marketing. What type of content do you need to create to attract your new readers? What type of content do your readers share that helps you grow your readers as well? Episode 34, we talked a lot about shareable content and I think that’s a big part of growing your readership.

Don’t just have a “build and they will come” mentality, be strategic about growing your readership. That comes also into play with a search engine optimization which we talked about in a recent episode as well. You need to continually be looking at these potential sources of readers for your blog because if you want to build a profitable blog in the long-term, you are going to need readers.

Then, the next stage of this is the seventh area I encourage you to think about and that is, “How are you going to get them to connect and keep coming back to your blog?” What hooks can you put into place? What are you going to ask those first-time readers to do when they first arrive in your blog that will hook them to get them to come back again tomorrow?

Getting that first eyeball, that first view of your blog’s not really enough. You’ve got to think strategically about how you’re going to get them to subscribe. What is the primary thing that you’re going to ask them to subscribe to? Is it an email list? That’s what it is for us, or is it Facebook or is it something else? Then what are the secondary points of connection can you offer them as well? It’s much better to have someone subscribe to you on your email list and following you on Facebook, LinkedIn, or wherever it is that you’re active to get that secondary point of connection. It helps you to build a quicker relationship with them when you’re communicating with them in multiple places. So, where will you ask them to connect?

Then, just as importantly, you need to think strategically about what comes after them subscribing. What process are you going to lead them through after they subscribe? Are you going to design some sort of an order responder email that’s going to walk them through, warming up in their relationship to you where you going to walk them through different aspects of what it is that you do and take them from being cold and cool as readers to warm, loyal, and even hot readers for you, and passionate about what you do? 

What comes after they subscribe? These are all areas that you can think and you should be thinking strategically about with your blog.

The eighth area, the second to last area I want to touch on today is monetization. How are you going to make your blog sustainable? It’s amazing how many blogs are made who just have this vague idea that if they build their readership, that opportunities will come to them. They might have heard of people getting a book deal or advertisers approaching them out of the blue.

Occasionally, this sort of stuff does happen. It happened to me. I got a book deal after I built a readership around my blog but many bloggers don’t get those opportunities. What are you going to do to build sustainability in your blog, to build profit into your blog? These opportunities might come but in the meantime, build something that is sustainable of your own. Research the different monetization strategies that are available to you.

In episode 37, I give you a money map of a whole heap of different ways that you can monetize your blog. What’s the best way for you? Research what else is working in your niche. What are other bloggers doing? Probably the best thing you can do is to create something of your own to sell to your readers. What can you actually build on your own? Whether it be an ebook, a course, or something else that you can sell of your own rather than sending your readers away to advertisers or to other people’s products that you promote as an affiliate, what can you sell and deliver to your readers of your own?

Then think about diversifying your income streams too. Most profitable bloggers that I’ve come across over the last 13 years have more than 1 income stream. Many of them have 10 or so income streams on their blogs. You don’t want to just start off with 10. You might just want to start up with one but how could you diversify that?

If you’ve been blogging with one income stream for a while now, maybe it’s time to think a bit strategically about adding in a second one. If you’ve been doing affiliate promotions, maybe it’s time to create your own product. Maybe if you’ve been doing advertising for a long time, maybe it’s time to experiment with some affiliate marketing. These are all different ways of doing this. Be strategic about it. Don’t be passive when it comes to monetization.

As bloggers, we all know we need to put time aside to create content. Most of us know we need to put aside time to promote our blogs, but it’s amazing how many bloggers don’t put any time aside in their weekly schedule to monetize their blogs. Put aside an hour a week at least to think about how to monetize your blog. If you want that area to grow, you need to dedicate time towards that. Be strategic about it.

The last thing that I just want to say is really wrapping up this idea of experimentation, tweaking, and evolving what you do. I’ve said this in pretty much all of the other strategies that I’ve talked about. You need to get into the mindset of being someone who’s constantly running experiments on all of these different areas.

It might sound a little bit overwhelming to you, this podcast so far, but can I just encourage you to choose one of those areas that I’ve talked about? Maybe it’s your goals. If you haven’t got goals, start with that one. I think it’s really important. If you’ve got goals, maybe you want to put some time aside to understanding who your reader is and doing some research on that, maybe running some surveys, maybe running a focus group, and really narrowing down who it is that’s reading your blog, building an avatar.

If you already got that down in place, think about your brand. Do some work on that brand that you want to build, to find what you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room. If you’ve got that down in place, put some time aside today to think about your editorial strategy, or your marketing strategy, or that process you’re going to take people through once they do subscribe to your email, or your monetization.

Put some time aside today to think strategically about at least one of these areas and to come up with an experiment that you could do on one of those areas as well. The best bloggers I meet are constantly running experiments on these types of things. They understand that blogging with heart is not enough. They also need to be a bit more strategic in these types of things and part of that process is being a bit scientific about it—testing, seeing what happens when we do things. Most importantly, not just doing an experiment and then just not learning anything from it but you need to experiment and learn, then evolve your approach over time.

I hope this particular episode hasn’t been too overwhelming. Do remember that it really is designed to sit with episode 102 as well. I really do believe that it’s the intersection between blogging with heart and blogging smart with strategy, that’s really where the magic happens. If you get into blogging with just one of these approaches, you’re only ever going to go so far. Bring some heart and soul into your blogging but bring strategy into it and you might just find that things really take off as a result.

As always, I would love to hear from you and your thoughts on this particular episode. You can go to and add to this discussion. Tell me what other areas you think bloggers need to be strategic in. Tell us about a time where you got more strategic about your blogging in one of these areas or some other area and what happened as a result of that. I’d love to learn from your experience in that way as well.

I look forward to chatting with you in episode 104 in a couple of days’ time. Do subscribe to us over on iTunes. Please leave us a review, if you have a moment, over on iTunes, on Stitcher, or your other podcasting network. Those reviews not only help us to grow the podcast and for people to find us, they build some social proof, but most importantly, they give me a bit of encouragement. Also, those podcast reviews that we get that give any insight, that have any suggestions, or any feedback, that’s something that I do pay attention to and learn from as well. You can really help us with that.

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How did you go with today’s episode?

I hope this wasn’t too overwhelming. Remember this episode intersects with episode 102. I think the blogging magic happens when blogging with heart is combined with a strategic strategy.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on what areas bloggers need to be strategic in.


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