The facts speak for themselves. Marketing data clearly shows that blogging is a critical piece of the inbound marketing methodology and directly correlates to better business results.
- Nearly 40% of US companies use blogs for marketing purposes.
- Companies that blog have 55% more website visitors.
- B2C companies that blog get 88% more leads/month than those that don’t.
- B2B companies that blog get 67% more leads/month than those that don’t.
But merely blogging won’t dramatically transform your marketing. Your blog has to be well-optimized and promoted, and most of all, rich with content. Frequency of blogging plays an important role in this equation, too. In fact, research shows companies that blog 20 or more times in a month see the biggest return in traffic and leads.
A blog is a long-term marketing asset that will bring traffic and leads to your business. It introduces you as a thought leader in your industry and allows you to earn people’s trust. In this post, we will walk you step-by-step through the blogging fundamentals and show you how to start reaping the benefits of this valuable marketing channel.
Table of Contents:
CHAPTER 1: WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE A BLOG
“The impact of business blogging extends to several major marketing benefits that marketers often overlook.”
We’ve already shared with you some powerful facts about business blogging. Clearly, it is a marketing asset strongly related to attracting high-quality traffic and generating new leads. Yet the impact of business blogging extends to several major marketing benefits that marketers often overlook.
In this section, we seek to draw the big picture that highlights the benefits of business blogging. We will elaborate on the different ways through which your blog can bring you marketing success, from expanding your visibility on the web, through creating a strong influence in the industry, to effectively capturing new leads.
FIRST, business blogging helps you in respect to search engine optimization (SEO). The more blog posts you publish, the more indexed pages you create for search engines to display in their results. In other words, business blogging helps you rank in search engines and get found when people search for industry-specific products or services. Thus, the blog enables you to attract organic traffic and familiarize people with your business.
In this framework, frequency of publishing blog posts matters a lot. Research has shown that businesses that blog 16 to 20 times per month get over two times more traffic than those that blog fewer than four times per month.
Optimize Your Posts
The other essential element of attracting more traffic through organic search is optimizing your blog posts. Make sure your blog titles incorporate industry keywords that people enter in search engines as they conduct research.
The Keyword Post
What is the most important search engine keyword that you have not yet blogged about? Take that keyword, and write a blog post about it. Blogging is a great tool for driving search engine traffic. Take advantage of it!
SECOND, your blog is an asset that positions you as a thought leader. So if you have some industry-specific information to share, a blog will help you earn people’s trust and stay top-of-mind for many in your community.
“46% of people read blogs more than once a day.”
Be a Problem Solver
Name the biggest problem your customers have. With that problem in mind, write a detailed blog post that provides practical and non-product focused solutions. Solve your customers’ problems with content.
Build Thought Leadership
Use your blog as a platform to showcase your expertise on a given subject. Inject your knowledge of the industry into your blog posts, and make a clear distinction between your brand and your competition.
Earn People’s Trust
People are relying on social media and blogs more and more to inform purchasing decisions. According to research on blogging, 46% of people read blogs more than once a day. With such active readership, blogging is a great way to nurture relationships build trust.
THIRD, a blog gives you valuable real estate to place calls-to-action in order to generate leads. At this stage of the game, you are trying to retain your blog readers and engage them further with your website and your content. So you might ask them to attend your webinar or download a free guide that you have. Calls-to-action introduce your prospects into the buying process and start qualifying them.
CTAs in Sidebar
One possible placement of calls-to-action is the sidebar of your blog. You can create banners to advertise some of your top-performing offers and add them around your blog for visitors to click on.
CTAs in Blog Posts
You can place calls-to-action within the blog post itself, at the beginning, middle or end of the article. Also, don’t forget to create contextual calls-to-action, by hyperlinking keywords to appropriate offers that you have.
Make Blog CTAs Contextual
Make sure you are matching the content you have written to the offer you want to highlight. In that way, you create a seamless connection between the two and cater to the reader who is ready to learn more about the topic. This is a very natural way of gauging interest and capturing leads. The contextual call-to-action is going to be much more appealing and have a much higher click-through rate to the subsequent landing page.
Should You Have Multiple Blogs?
In some cases, when you are targeting niche audiences with very different needs, it might make sense to separate your business blogs. Yet it’s always better to start with one blog and then consider further segmentation.
It’s better if you integrate your efforts. The content creation and management process takes a tremendous amount of work and time. You need to minimize the work and maximize the profits.
In general, you are able to separate content by tagging it with appropriate keywords. So when people search for these keywords, they will arrive at the specific blog post and receive further information.
To be successful at this task, you need to have a clear understanding of the personas you are targeting.
CHAPTER 2: HOW TO GENERATE BLOG CONTENT
“Finding topics to blog about is one of the most common challenges marketers face.”
By now, you should be convinced of the business value of blogging. But you have probably also started wondering what content you can possibly cover. What to write about?
Welcome to the club! Finding topics to blog about is one of the most common challenges marketers face. We always recommend that you start by answering some of your customers’ most popular questions -- reviewing industry trends, comparing prices of products or services in your industry, or conducting brief interviews with experts from your organization. These creative efforts seem time-consuming, don’t they?
That is why in this section, we will mention a few easy ways to generate the right content for your blog, from repackaging existing resources to involving others in the process and finding guest bloggers.
Start with something simple. Do a thorough audit of existing content or internal communications. Many times, you can take something that may have been published internally, remove some proprietary information, and transform it into a great blog post because, ultimately, you’re showcasing the inside of the brand and the organization. Great content should, in a sense, showcase the inner workings of an organization. What better way to do that than with repackaged internal content?
Next, reach out to others in your organization. Identify people who serve as your business’ primary sources of communication with the outside world -- whether that’s customer service or sales. Give them a pad of paper, and for one day, ask them to write down every single question somebody asks them. Ultimately, this will give you a really rich list to help you generate blogging ideas.
Even if you leverage resources outside of your company and infiltrate other departments within the company, it’s still easy to run out of content ideas quickly. Therefore, you should be constantly seeking new opinions and new insights.
Hold brainstorming sessions and consider creating a collaborative document to allow people build on one another’s ideas. If you are a small company, identify peers or fellow bloggers who might be willing to participate in such brainstorming sessions. For instance, you can create a Facebook group with other people who are in a similar situation.
When you join a group that you can bounce ideas off, you’ll discover something really interesting: when you suggest a blog post idea to the brainstorming group, people will react if they are interested in the topic. If they don’t react to it, it probably won’t drive that much interest for the larger audience either.
Another method of generating content for your blog is to invite other industry experts to write guest posts for you. Use your network to find people who might be interested in guest blogging. Be confident in pitching them benefits of guest blogging.
For instance, guest bloggers can gain exposure beyond their normal readership and generate inbound links that can help them rank better in search engines. Guest blogging is also a great way to begin a co-marketing partnership and build a strong relationship with industry influencers.
Another great way to generate blog content is through curation, or the aggregation of other valuable pieces of content. If you are going to curate information, make sure you’re curating it to provide some type of value for your reader. Don’t just curate content for the sake of doing it. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you saving the reader time by putting all of these resources in one place?
- Are you offering your own opinion and insight against what somebody else has said?
You need to make sure you’re adding some layer of value for your reader by curating the information in the first place.
Most people are going to be flattered if you want to share their content. It’s also a great opportunity to build a relationship with them. The simplest guideline is to do unto others as you would have done to yourself. Make sure you’re following other bloggers’ content usage guidelines, and make sure you appropriately attribute the original author. When linking to others’ content, it’s also a good idea to create links that open in a new tab or window.
How Often Should You Blog?
When you are thinking about the frequency of your blogging, start doing the math backwards. If you need five new leads a month who you can follow up with, then how many new visits to your blog do you need?
Another question you need to consider when creating your blogging schedule is setting expectations. You might blog once a week or twice a month, and that will be okay if your posts reveal great content that engages an active audience. But make sure you publish your posts around the same time so you create anticipation amongst your readers.
“An editorial calendar will help you maintain a healthy balance of content types.”
In your content creation plan, make sure you have a steady backlog of content, some of which addresses topics that can become evergreen and therefore valuable for a long time to come. In this way, you are also considering the long-term effects of your blog.
Build an editorial calendar to help you map out your frequency, give you a general idea of the content you’ll be creating, and serve as a blogging schedule. What is more, it will help you develop an approach. For instance, if you are working hard to rank for a specific keyword, you can focus on your content around that keyword for a month and then measure the results. Have you increased your search engine ranking for that given keyword?
An editorial calendar will also help you maintain a healthy balance of content types covering various topics and lengths such as posts that are short and shareable vs. those that are meaty and comprehensive. You should always plan for blog content to get published at certain designated times, but also be able to take advantage of industry-related news stories that allow you to create a timely blog post and leverage the buzz that’s already being generated around the topic. Therefore, it’s important to also be agile and flexible in your content creation process.
CHAPTER 3: HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR BLOG POSTS
“Optimize your content to grab people’s attention and rank well in search engines.”
Frequency and quantity of blogging are certainly two factors that will impact your business results. However, you won’t get far without optimizing your blog posts.
You need to optimize your content to grab people’s attention and rank well in search engines. What is more, your blog posts should also introduce offers that can directly impact your lead generation efforts. It’s a fairly simple concept -- the more visitors you can attract to your blog, the more chances for conversion!
In this chapter, we will look at ten different ways in which you can optimize your blog posts, from an SEO perspective as well as a lead generation standpoint.
1. Social Media Sharing Buttons
Give your blog content extended reach by including social media sharing buttons (e.g. “Like,” “Share on LinkedIn,” “Tweet,” etc.) on every post. This will encourage readers to share your content with their personal networks and expand its reach beyond your own connections.
2. Compelling Images
Include an image that conveys what the blog post is about. This makes your content visually appealing to readers and breaks up blocks of text-based content. A blog post that has some type visual element -- whether it’s a photograph, a graphic, or some type of infographic -- typically performs a little better than a post that’s purely text.
3. Eye-Catching & Optimized Titles
Headlines are the most important element of your blog posts. While there are quite a few elements that make up a successful blog post, one of the best things you can do to capture readers’ attention and entice them to view your post is to write an awesome blog title. Here are several title tips for eye-catching blog titles:
Be Clear & Direct
“Blogging for Small Business: 3 Tips for Conquering Excuses” is an example of a blog title that tells readers exactly what they’re going to get. Do they need a way to overcome excuses for not blogging? If so, they’re going to read this post.
Another type of successful blog title is the one that creates a sense of urgency or importance. You want people to feel enticed to read a post when they first see the title.
Most people who read blogs are reading them because they want to learn how to solve a particular problem. Indicate that your article will actually tell them how to do something they don’t know how to do. An example of such a title is “How to Find Free Images for Your Blog (the right way)”.
How Not To
Just like people love to know how to do something, they also love knowing how not to do something. People like reassurance that they’re not doing something wrong. So use your blog to give them advice on how to fix common problems!
Controversial posts tend to spark a lot of discussion and debate, which also makes them spread quickly. So try making a blog title a bit controversial and see how your audience reacts to it. That said, don’t be controversial just for the sake of being controversial. Make sure you present some solid points, including well thought-out descriptions and facts within the post to back up your opinion.
Numbers are a great way to set expectations for a post. It tells readers exactly what they’re going to get, and exactly how much of it. Readers don’t usually want to be kept guessing, so why not give it to them straight? Write a blog post about some newly published industry research and make sure to include data points in your blog title. An example of such a title is “5 Reasons Why Trello is an Excellent Blogging Editorial Calendar.”
Sometimes you need a title that smacks the reader right in the face. It’s dramatic. It challenges the reader. In other words, it makes them want to click on the link. Like really badly. An example of such a blog headline is “6 Reasons People are Leaving Your Website.”
We’ve found that a lot of relevant breaking news- type posts are successful in attracting viewership. Specifically, blog posts with the word “launch” in their title perform particularly well. Use words that indicate the post’s timeliness or newsworthiness directly in your title.
Try to keep your titles brief and concise. A long-winded title often sounds complicated and can lose a potential reader’s interest. As a general rule of thumb, aim to keep your blog titles 8-9 words or fewer.
4. Formatting is Your Friend
In blogging, it is important to break up blocks of text into chunks. Online reading is not like reading a physical book. The online reader wants to be able to immediately scroll through content and scan subheads, bold text, and even bullet points. For example, here is how we have applied bullet points and different font sizes to the same content in order to make it more visually appealing:
Your content plan helps to guide and inform your blogging strategy. Without a content plan, it can become too easy to stray away from your core goals and target audience. As you’re developing the content plan, you’ll want to define how often and who will post, blog post ideas, and an editorial calendar.
Your content plan helps to guide and inform your blogging strategy. Without a content plan, it can become too easy to stray away from your core goals and target audience.
As you’re developing the content plan, you’ll want to define:
- How often and who will post
- Blog post ideas
- An editorial calendar.
5. In-Text Calls-to-Action
Once you have built a blog readership, you can start making attempts to convert those visitors into leads. A well-constructed blog post should always include in-text links to other resources. To maximize lead gen potential, why not point these links to landing pages for downloadable offers such as an ebook you’ve written, an upcoming or archived webinar, or other conversion opportunities like demo requests, free trials, etc.?
6. Sidebar Calls-to-Action
In addition to the individual blog articles you publish, the homepage for your blog can help generate leads in itself. The top of your blog as well as its sidebar are both prime real estate for CTA banners and buttons. Design some visually stimulating CTAs that link to landing pages for some of your best-performing offers. Feel free to also test and rotate different offers to make sure you’re using this space for maximum lead generation power.
7. Make It Actionable
Whether people found the blog post through a search engine, an email, or a social network, they most likely clicked through to an article to solve a problem. What makes people share a post with others is the actionable insight it provides to solve a problem. Provide clear takeaways and actionable steps in blog posts to ensure your idea resonates with readers.
8. Combined Relevance
Metaphors are a timeless storytelling element. Don’t leave metaphors to novelists. They should be an active part of blog posts, too. Comparing two seemingly different things and drawing connections between them is a valuable way to combine relevance and generate more interest in a subject.
Informative doesn’t have to mean boring. Just because you sell sheet metal, doesn’t mean your business blog can’t also be entertaining. Have your shop crew make some fun and timely creations out of sheet metal and post an image or video of each new creation. Have someone outside your company review your blog post to check for entertainment.
Great blog posts aren’t meek or subtle. They are clear, direct, and definitive. Take a stand, make strong word choices, and don’t waver on your advice. Be the expert on your topic.
CHAPTER 4: HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR BLOG
“A blog is much easier to promote if it has been optimized for success.”
There are thousands of blogs out there. If you are convinced that yours should stand out from the rest, you should do the necessary work to promote it. Promotion drives more traffic to your blog, increases your visibility, and helps to establish you as an authority in your niche.
A blog is much easier to promote if it has been optimized for success. For instance, you need to be using compelling titles and images. You should also make it easy for your readers to spread blog posts across their networks. Let’s look at the different ways in which you can gain exposure for your blog.
1. Find Bloggers
A great starting point for promoting your blog is to leverage your existing connections and create new relationships. Reach out to influential bloggers in your industry and attract their attention through mentions on your blog and social media. Your goal here is to create an opportunity for them to share your blog posts across their network. What is more, you can create link-building opportunities that will prove essential in the accumulation of inbound links and how your blog posts rank in search engines.
2. Social Media Sharing
We’ve already mentioned the connection between business blogging and social media sharing. This is definitely an essential dynamic for the promotion of your content. Just about every blog now has social sharing buttons to make it as easy as possible for visitors to share your content.
Whenever you publish a new blog post, you should automatically publish it to the main social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. The most popular locations for buttons are above the content, below the content, or to the left of the content.
3. Website Banners
We cannot emphasize enough the power of calls-to-action in driving traffic to your blog. Consider placing calls-to-action on different pages of your website, such as your home page and About Us company page.
Carefully craft the language for the call-to-action. For instance, you can emphasize the number of people who are already subscribed to your blog and use a call-to-action along the lines of “45,000 people already receive our new blog posts via email. Join them today!”
4. Events & Presentations
If you are at an event and giving a presentation on a specific topic, you can refer the audience to your blog for further information. You can use a QR code to allow people to quickly and easily subscribe to your blog.
5. Email Signatures
Your blog most likely covers a range of topics, all tailored to your marketing persona(s). So whenever you send an email, you can link to the awesome resources located on your blog. Email signatures can drive a surprisingly high amount of traffic to your blog.
6. Run a Contest
Consider running a contest on your blog to attract more attention to it. Come up with an entry system that requires other bloggers to link back to you. You can either have them publish a post on their blog, retweet a post from your blog, or ‘like’ your Facebook fan page in order to be eligible. Any one of these methods is sure to help expand your blog’s reach and attract new visitors.
7. Blog Directories
Blog directories present another opportunity for promoting your blog legally. There are hundreds of free blog directories out there. You’ll want to make sure to submit your blog to at least the top 25-50 directories available. This can help you get more traffic and help with rankings as well because it creates inbound links to your blog.
8. Create a Video
Create a short video to describe what your blog covers and what its mission is. Then, publish the video to YouTube and allow a different audience to find it. You can also create a controversial or funny video that links to the blog.
CHAPTER 5: HOW TO MEASURE YOUR BLOG
“Business blogging without measuring results is a waste of time.”
Business blogging without measuring results is a waste of time. Measuring the results of your business blogging efforts can save you time and make you more money. Talk about a win-win!
When it comes to your business blog, there are a range of metrics you can consider. In fact, the number of blogging metrics can get so large that tracking them all wouldn’t leave much time for blogging, let alone other important aspects of inbound marketing.
Let’s look at the most important metrics you need to keep an eye on to know how your business blogging is going.
One of the most basic metrics is also one of the most important ones. Visits are the count of people who actually read your blog content.
It’s interesting to look at your total number of visits to measure the overall improvement of your blog. However, a better way to look at this data is viewing visits by individual blog articles.
Looking at success factors for individual articles helps you better understand the type of content your target audience is looking for. Look at your five most successful blog posts. What do they have in common?
If your business blog isn’t generating leads for your business, you are missing a huge opportunity. Leads are what fuels the growth and success of your business. They are the true measure of a successful business blog.
Sometimes a post may not get a ton of visits but still generate lots of leads. Without looking at the leads metric, a marketer might easily dismiss the less viewed post as a failure when that shouldn’t necessarily be the case.
Look at the leads you generate from blog posts. Also examine at what rate those leads convert into customers compared to other marketing channels.
It takes more than reading one blog article for a person to develop an understanding of your expertise and credibility within your industry. Giving readers the opportunity to subscribe to your blog either via Really Simple Syndication (RSS) or via email is a common characteristic of a well-planned blog.
Looking at how many people subscribe to your blog provides a solid indicator of the quality and consistency of your content. Your subscribers act as the base readership of your content and can help spread it to others.
Tracking Inbound Links
When another website links to a page on your website, we call this an inbound link. Search engines use inbound links as a method to determine how pages appear and rank in search engine results.
As blog posts are normally educational rather than product-centric, they are great at generating inbound links and, subsequently, search traffic.
Watch Social Media Shares
Social media can be a key driver of short-term traffic. Look at the historic social media shares for your blog posts to determine which types of posts get the most short-term traffic from social media.
Compare that data to the number of visits or leads to see if there are any major inconsistencies. What could they be due to, and how can you use them to your advantage?
Chapter 6: Four Business Blogging Best Practices
“The challenge is to find the right blend of content for your audience.”
Great business blogs have to walk a fine line: they have to create value for current and prospective customers while supporting a strategy that provides business growth.
Business blogs are often measured by very different metrics than blogs that function as media outlets. The media business online is about impressions and clicks. However, if you are a B2B business blog and your goal is lead generation, then you really don’t care about impressions. While one person may generate 100 impressions in a week for a media site, for a business blog, that same person is only going to account for one lead regardless of how often they view your content.
Because business blogging has different goals, it also has some distinct best practices that distinguish it from personal blogs or media blogs. However, some of the key principles of media and personal blogs are still very much important in business blogging. The challenge is to find the right blend of content for your audience.
1. Think Like a Vertically Integrated Publisher
You are not a business blogger, you are a vertically integrated online publisher. Your job isn’t to publish an article or two each week. Instead, you have the same responsibilities that publishers in traditional media have; the only difference is that all of those responsibilities are tied directly to your business.
Publishers have to create relevant content, determine the best methods to publicize their content to improve reach, and define advertising opportunities as well as manage them. As a vertically integrated publisher, you should do all of these things for your company to ensure that the content you create is valuable to prospective customers and is delivered in a way that can support lead generation for your business.
2. Focus on Non-Branded Keyword Content
Readers don’t want you to talk about your company on your blog, and this is great for your business. It is likely that, if you have spent some time optimizing your website, you rank well in search engines for your company name and related terms. However, business blogs provide the opportunity to build incoming traffic from non-branded keywords.
For example, if you are a manufacturer, instead of blogging about your company and products, you should be writing about industry best practices and answering common customer questions about higher level product issues. This content will not only help increase search traffic, but also drive better quality prospects to your business’ website.
3. Ask Your Readers What They Want
It is easy to get caught up in the type of information you think is interesting, but after business blogging for a few months, you’ll experience the need to ask readers what they want.
Assumptions can often be wrong, so conduct a survey on your business blog as a way to obtain clear feedback from readers. Questions should address topics for future posts and types of content readers prefer (e.g. text vs. audio vs. video, etc.), and the survey should also include space for comments to give readers the opportunity to make their own, personalized suggestions.
4. Connect Blog With Website
Business blogs can be a major source of new traffic from search engines and social media. Realize that a blog post may be the first thing a potential customer sees about your company. Having a blog as part of your corporate site, either as a subdomain (blog. yourdomain.com) or as a page (yourdomain. com/blog) is an important step to allow first-time visitors to easily learn additional information about your company.
It is also important to make sure the navigation and other design elements of your blog make it easy for users to find information about your company if they’re looking for it.
CONCLUSION & ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Business blogging is an essential part of online marketing. It helps your company gain exposure in front of a larger audience and develop industry leadership. What is more, it directly impacts business results because it is strictly tied to an increase in organic search traffic and referrals as well as robust lead generation.
As you embark on your business blogging journey, prepare for the workload tied to content management. Build an editorial calendar, and start adding to it some resources that you already have lying around, such as whitepapers, informative brochures, and industry reports. We also recommend that you involve a few more people in the content creation process.
Don’t forget to optimize your blog posts by identifying the right titles, tweaking formatting, and including calls-to-action in the text. That is how you will start seeing business results.
After publishing a well-optimized post, don’t just sit back and wait for it to generate conversations. Promote it actively by making it easy for people to share the content with their network. Make sure others in your organizations are also spreading the word.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of business blogging metrics. They will show you which articles work and which don’t. By looking at the number of views, leads, and inbound links your blog posts are generating, you will gain a better understanding of your audience and their needs. Such insights will guide you in your other marketing initiatives and help you develop an effective inbound marketing strategy.