Guest blog post by Marketer and Copywriter, Helen Robinson.
How can I create a blog that generates new business and builds my online profile? How do I write attention-grabbing blog posts that potential clients want to read and share, and that will help search engines to find and rank my website?
These are questions that I am regularly asked, so I thought I’d share my process for planning blog content and writing blog posts.
A great blog can have a huge impact on your website traffic and give you the opportunity to convert that traffic to new business. But once your blog is set up, without a blogging strategy and a format to write to, it is easy to fall into the trap of publishing a couple of rambling posts then seeing no results and giving up.
The 20-step process below gives guidance on some of the things to consider when planning and writing blogs.
(1) Set some goals. Like any marketing activity, there must be a purpose to your blog, with a goal and measurable objectives. So the purpose of your blog might be to raise your online profile within your industry, your goal is to become a regular speaker at events, and your measurable objective is to be invited to speak at two industry events within the next year. Or you might focus instead on increasing traffic to your website, or selling a particular new product range. Whatever your goals are, be clear in your mind what you want to achieve – and focus your blog content around this.
(2) Define your audience. Who are you targeting? Are you selling children’s clothes to trendy parents? Or are you targeting local authority managers. Be clear about who your audience is and ensure everything you write is appealing to them. How do you do this?
(3) Write some key messages. Your blog will probably need to appeal to a number of different audiences, so for each one, write down the message you want to get across to them. To get your messages right, think about motivations and benefits. What motivations do your potential customers have? What problems are they currently experiencing? How can you solve them? How exactly will your products and services benefit them and their lives?
(4) Build a list of keywords. If you don’t already have a list of keywords for your website and blog, you should create one. Keywords are search terms that people type into Google etc to find relevant content. If your blog doesn’t contain the right keywords, new customers won’t be able to find you online. How to do your own keyword research.
(5) Competitors and collaborators. Make a list of these at the start, then check what they are writing about and how they use their online presence. Commercial awareness is important when putting blogs together, and you may see some opportunities when undertaking your benchmarking research.
(6) Create an editorial calendar. For each blog post, you should now be able to say why you’re writing it, who you’re writing it for, and what message are you trying to get across in the post, and what keywords you plan to use in it. Format this information into an editorial calendar, along with blog topic/title, publication date, author (if you plan you have guest blogs) and call to action (what you want the reader to do). Add in key events and dates that you wish to plan content around. This will help you generate topic ideas.
Blog content generation
How do you think of good topic ideas? An editorial calendar will help structure your thoughts, but thinking of topics can be difficult. Here are some ideas to help fill your calendar slots.
(7) Your products and services. Write about what you know! Who buys your products and what do they like about them? How are your products and services used? Give added value advice and useful customer information. Just don’t go in for the hard sell: it’s a massive turn-off to readers.
(8) FAQs. What do your clients and customers regularly ask you? These are probably things they’ve also looked up online. Check with your frontline staff what customers are saying; ask your regular clients what issues they’re currently dealing with. This information is gold dust for blog content.
(9) Industry events. What events will your customers be going to? Which keynote speakers are they most interested in seeing? Well-timed previews and reviews of industry events allow you to join in online conversations about them and invite comments.
(10) Advice and tips. Be generous and share your knowledge. Blogs that give away valuable information are most likely to be shared.
(11) Guest blog posts. Invite other staff members, clients and other industry experts to contribute a blog post. If they have a big following online, you will gain a whole new audience for your blog. For internal staff, this will help build your customers get to know your company better and help raise the profile of key team members.
(12) Industry hot topics. What is everyone talking about? If you get in on the conversation early and give away good advice (or be controversial), your post is likely to be shared widely.
(13) Don’t re-post content. If you simply re-post duplicate content from other websites, you are in danger of landing yourself a Google penalty. (See Jonny’s post on this here). If you want to reference another blog post, think of a different angle and link back to it.
Writing blog posts
(14) Keyword density. Include 2-3 keywords in each blog post (up to 2% maximum keyword density), but ensure they appear naturally in the text and aren’t shoe-horned in. readability is the priority.
(13) Word count. Aim for 750-900 words for written blog posts. Including some shorter posts is fine, especially if they are visually-led (video and photo content), but do also include some meaty blog posts of 750-900 words to give search engines something to get their teeth into as well. Much longer than that and you’ll lose some readers who don’t have time to read everything.
(14) Content format. Consider including some video blogs. Theses are increasingly ranking higher as more people are sharing video content.
(15) Subheadings. Include subtitles to break up the text, and aim to include some keywords in them.
(16) Title. Think of eye-catching blog post titles – ask yourself, would you read a post with that title? Include keywords if possible. Research has shown that “top tips” style headings score well for click-throughs and shares, as do negative headings “The most common mistakes…” over positive ones.
(17) Photos. Add at least one and preferably 3+ photos to each blog to make them more visually appealing. Many business blogs have a lot to learn from consumer blogs on this.
(18) Hyperlinks. Include hyperlinks to: (a) other relevant content on your site to encourage traffic around your site, increase engagement and promote conversions; and (b) other well respected websites (always reference and link to sources of statistics and information – this will not only increase chances of backlinks from those sites, but will also illustrate credibility). A ratio of 7:3 external:internal links is good practice.
(19) End on a question. Add an engaging question at the end to encourage comments and interaction – what do you think about…? Have you experienced XXX in your organisation? What did you do? Any best practice examples you can share?
(20) Call to action. Every blog should have a call to action at the end. Call to find out more. Sign up to my blog. Fill in this form. Even if it is just to consider a different view and leave a comment. Make the most of having your reader’s attention and direct them to something else they might be interested in doing.
Increasing your blog traffic
Once you’ve posted on your blog, you can’t just sit back and wait for the flood of readers – you need to work hard to get it out there.
(21)Social media sharing icons. Make it as easy as possible for people to share your posts with their friends and colleagues by ensuring you have one-click social sharing functionality enabled.
(22) Share on your social pages. Share every blog post through all your social media sites, with bespoke messages for each audience. For Twitter, draft a number of tweets looking at different angles, and post them at different times over a number of days.
(23) Other company mentions. If you mention another individual, website or company, hyperlink them and let them know you’ve done so – this often elicits a backlink or a tweet etc from them.
(24) Personal contacts. Email or private message your contacts who might be interested in the blog content and send them a link. Ask if they would consider sharing through their contacts or leaving a comment.
(25) Subscribe. Include a blog sign-up option so people can subscribe to your blog (delivered weekly/fortnightly etc to their inbox), and you can capture their data and preferences for future communications.
A lot of hard work and effort goes into creating and writing great blogs, and building blog audiences. While being vociferous, the blogging community is also be very supportive. So if you read a great blog that someone else has written, consider taking a couple of minutes to comment and share it.
It can take time to see results from your blog, but regular posting/sharing is key. If you put the required time and effort into your blog, your perseverance will bring results.
Enjoy blogging! And, of course, do leave a comment if you agree or disagree with my process. I am interested to hear how others have built their blog following up, too…?
Helen Robinson manages a number of business blogs on behalf of clients working in the HR, legal, training and development and digital/social media sectors.
Other blogs managed by Helen include the Involve Yorkshire & Humber blog for and about the voluntary and community sector in the region, and policies/issues affecting communities.