For your business to thrive in today’s online world, a strong online presence is indispensable. Paid advertising on AdWords and social platforms will produce immediate results, but for long-term success, nothing trumps content marketing. And it all begins with what I call “home base” — your website’s blog.
Blogging serves as the base for all other digital outlets; it provides content for social media, newsletters, and a source for other websites to attribute and link to. The most successful businesses — from small to midsize businesses (SMBs) to enterprises — think like publishers when producing content. They save all of their product and service information for the main sales pages of their websites. Some even build subdomains dedicated solely to blogging.
As Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi reveals in his book, “Epic Content Marketing,” a business must think of content marketing as an asset — not just another expense. Blogging is that asset’s foundation. Here’s how to make it work:
1. Focus on reader needs, not your service or product.
Too many business blogs discuss services and products, which immediately turns off readers. Save that language for your main service pages. Instead, focus on adding value to the reader through education and/or entertainment.
The easiest way to do this? Answer questions and solve problems. When developing a blog strategy, I set Google Alerts for relevant keywords to inform my topics and visit forums where my target customer/client hangs out. This feeds me information about what questions and problems people are having. Two key places to check out are Reddit and Quora — you’ll find questions and problems associated with just about every industry.
2. Optimize for search.
After narrowing in on a topic, turn your attention to keyword research — a must if you want optimal search results. There are various keyword research tools out there; I’m a fan of SEMrush due to its ease of use and proven results with my clients.
Optimize each blog post for one or two target keywords (for example, this is optimized for “start a business blog”) and use related keywords (“blogs for business owners,” “blog strategy,” etc.).
I won’t go deep into on-page SEO in this article, but always use headline tags (essentially sub-topics), internal links (hyperlinks within the blog that point to other important pages on your website), and unique meta descriptions (the short, 160-character description of the post that is listed in search results pages).
3. Write an attention-grabbing headline.
Create a headline that immediately grabs attention (and include your target keyword). What works best is offering specific facts or tips, and fostering a sense of curiosity. Keep titles to 60 characters maximum because search engines truncate everything afterward. Bonus tip: Try A/B testing with various headlines. The results can be shocking.
4. Prioritize content, frequency, and consistency.
The first is quality. Ensure that all of your blog posts undergo a strict editing process. Misinformation and grammatical errors will have your prospects looking elsewhere
Next is frequency. More is always better. I’ve assisted clients doing as little as three blog posts per month, and as much as 15 per week. Of course, the latter scaled more quickly in search rankings. I’ve found that the sweet spot for SMBs is a minimum of six per month, and for mid-to-enterprise businesses, it’s 12 a month.
Don’t forget consistency. Push blog posts live at the same time every week; this shows your organizational skills and helps build consistency on social media feeds and newsletters.
5. Include one clear CTA.
Always contain one clear call to action (CTA) in each post. If you’re seeking newsletter signups, use that CTA. Looking for lead generation by giving away a free e-book? Include that CTA. If you have more than one clear CTA, people get confused. This is another advantage of frequent blogging — you can share different CTAs more often. Try matching each CTA to the content presented.
6. Attribute key influencers.
Attribute influencers within the vertical you’re blogging about — especially the latest information available from those influencers. This shows your audience that you care about the industry and are educating yourself in order to provide the most value. Plus, this can lead to viral attention if an influencer sees your blog and shares it on his or her online channels.
7. Engage through social and newsletters.
Some businesses think they can simply start a blog and everyone will come to their website. But without a huge following or strong SEO, this is nearly impossible. The solution for true engagement lies in sharing your latest blog posts across all social media channels and in your monthly newsletters. This adds another layer of value, and greater reach, to your home-based content marketing efforts.
8. Do your research before outsourcing.
When I speak with a new prospect about blogging, I discuss value and pricing upfront. I believe in 80/20 living — especially in business — and don’t want to waste their time or mine.
While some prospects say they can get a freelancer to do their blogging for much cheaper, my process includes various layers of creation: initial keyword research, topic development, headlines, and editorial calendar. I move to create SEO guidelines for the writer, and once the copy is returned it goes through a strict editorial process and is “SEO’d” before being submitted.
When working with a serious content agency, remember that you’re not just paying for the writing. Many reputable content marketing agencies and freelancers exist, but do your research and make sure they know what they’re doing. Ask to see samples of their work before committing.
Don’t think like a service or product business when marketing through your blog. Think more like a publisher, and offer valuable posts that answer your reader’s questions and provide solutions to their problems.
Many get nervous about “giving information away for free.” This shouldn’t be a worry; your top competitors are surely already doing it. One Google search will easily show that. As would their stronger bottom line.