Ryan's experience ranges from higher education to SMBs and tech startups. When not doing digital marketing, he's sure to be enjoying some kind of nerdy pastime.
Can having a company blog really help you get more customers?
This is an awkward question to answer. Because the truth is, a company blog can absolutely attract more customers – if executed correctly.
However, more often than not, companies mistakenly write blog articles on their Websites and call it content marketing; when the two aren’t mutually exclusive at all. While blogging IS undoubtedly a fundamental part of content marketing, it’s NOT an effective method of procuring clients in and of itself.
Blogging is simply ONE part of a comprehensive content marketing strategy. Without fully recognizing this fact, many businesses incorrectly approach their blogs from the beginning; sadly experiencing little to no results. You see it every day – company blogrolls that haven’t been updated in months, or in some cases, even years.
As reported by the New York Times in 2008, 95 percent of blogs are essentially abandoned at any given time. While these obviously aren’t all business blogs, you can bet a fair amount are in the fold.
With this in mind, we’ve created The Beginner’s Guide to Blogging for Business. Our goal? To provide a clearer understanding of what it actually takes to start and maintain a successful company blog. So, let’s get started!
Define Your Target Market
Who are you writing for? IT Support Managers who need help evaluating help desk programs? CFOs who are aware they have a company data governance problem, but don’t know what to do about it? Enterprise Level Executives who want to redesign their current workspaces in the next 12 months?
The bottom line – Be specific. Like, really specific.
If you’re insistent upon serving a more general audience, you can still likely hone in on several commonalities:
- Common questions, frustrations, and desires posed at each stage of The Buyer’s Journey (awareness - consideration - decision).
- Common responsibilities, situations and concerns they encounter in their work and personal lives.
- Common interests (i.e., blogs frequented, TV shows watched, magazines subscribed to, news outlets frequented).
Even if you’ve been in business a while, consider surveying past customers for specific information about what they were thinking before working with you, likes, dislikes and so on. Creating digital surveys using free software like Survey Monkey and Google Forms is quick and easy. You can also offer an incentive to make it worth their wild (i.e., future discounts on offerings, Amazon gift cards, worthwhile swag).
Generate Topic Ideas
When it comes to figuring out what to write about, you have several options. We recommend taking a multi-tiered approach:
GET IDEAS FROM SEARCH TERMS
Now, that you’ve defined your target market, it’s time to a little more digging. Visit Google’s keyword planner and make some educated guesses (based on the data you previously uncovered) about the root and long-tail keywords for which your prospects search.
Root keywords are short search terms that usually have a high search volume AND strong competition for ranking. Long-tail keywords are phrased search terms that usually have lower to moderate competition for ranking. Aim to find the sweet spot – keywords that have a high search volume with low to moderate competition.
- Identify four to five root keywords you want to rank.
- Identify several similar long tail keywords you want to rank.
- Record your findings in a master document
GET IDEAS FROM PROSPECTS
Oftentimes, your best content ideas will come from prospects themselves! Whether it’s a question directly posed to your sales manager, a topic receiving a lot of traction on industry forums or even comments posted on a competitor’s social media accounts – there’s no better way to find interesting topics.
Using a content curation service like BuzzSumo is another way to find interesting topics for your prospects. Just type in your keywords, set your time filter and quickly find the most shared articles online for a variety of topics.
GET IDEAS FROM YOUR LIFE
You know those EPIC blog posts you see sometimes? The ones that get shared over and over again, and seem to take on a life of their own? They’re rare. The reason being: They weren’t copying anything else out there. Often, that evergreen content comes from relating personal thoughts, opinions and life experiences to topics customers care about significantly. Now, there’s something to consider!
Once you’ve gathered a bunch of ideas, it’s time to determine a publishing schedule (i.e., 6 blog articles per month) and schedule them in a calendar for the foreseeable future. The good news? They actually add up quick! If you thoroughly went through the steps mentioned above, it’s not unreasonable to generate topics for up to 6 months in advance.
Whether you’re selling insurance or office furniture, anytime you’re writing – you’re telling a story. Though great writing is a craft that is developed over time, there is a basic formula you can follow for structuring your blog articles (if you really think you’re a horrible writer and just aren’t sure what to do… Though, if that’s the case, you should strongly consider hiring it out):
HEADLINE: The purpose of the headline is to grab the reader’s attention. Think curiosity-inducing, tangible or measurable. Also, never underestimate the power of simply restating the question itself.
INTRO: The purpose of the intro is to set the stage for what’s to come. Let the reader know where you’re going with this and why they should care.
BODY: Journalists are taught to write their articles answering the 5 W’s: Who, What. Where, When and Why? You can do the same!
EXAMPLES: Provide examples and tell stories to illustrate points, if applicable.
CONCLUSION: Don’t just leave em’ hanging! Summarize the main idea of what they’ve just learned.
CTA: Always finish with a clear “Call to Action” by letting the reader know what you want them to do next (i.e., Subscribe to the newsletter, call for a consultation, download the report).
Format Your Posts
When is the last time you read a long article – from start to finish – with no paragraph breaks, no formatting, and very little white space? Whether you realize it or not, the articles you keep reading usually have one thing in common: They’re formatted with breathing room!
No one wants to read a long block of text. It’s like walking into a department store the week before Christmas: Clothes everywhere and hard to find what you want.
Follow these guidelines for readability:
- Create new paragraphs every 2-4 sentences.
- Use bold, italics and CAPS (sparingly) for emphasis.
- Use headers and subheads to organize subject changes.
- Use high-resolution images that support your subject matter.
Optimize Your Content
Although SEO is a lengthy topic, worthy of its own article, optimizing blog articles for keywords is fairly simple. Decide which keyword phrase you would like to rank for (remember, long-tail keywords have less competition that root keywords). Then place that keyword in the following places:
- Page Title
- Page URL
- Meta Description
- Page Headers
- Alt Images
Try to “naturally” use the keyword 3-4 times throughout the post. Don’t be afraid to vary the syntax (i.e.,. standing desks for executives v. executive standing desks). Also, link to both external and internal blog posts. The more authoritative the external source, the better.
Promote Your Articles
Finally, it’s time to promote your articles! Ideally, you’ll want to spend as much time promoting your content as you did writing it. Despite what you may have heard, there is no “one size fits all” promotional strategy. What works for one business might not work for another.
Based on the target market data you’ve gathered, choose 2-3 methods you think will best research your prospects. Whether that be a combination of paid advertisements, webinars and group participation on LinkedIN OR focusing on growing your current customer email list by promoting a content sharing campaign.
The important thing? Stick with it! Generating significant returns via content marketing can take time, but it shouldn’t take forever. Reevaluate your outreach strategy every 3-4 months to determine what’s working and what needs to change.
I Still Have Questions!
If you still feel like you need help getting started, our friends at firstsiteguide.com have created a really helpful guide to getting started on your first blog. It's super-helpful, so I recommend you go read it.
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