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Does your company have a blog?
It remains a question that, even with so much being written about content marketing, still generates debates rather than a simple answer. SMEs, particularly those without a dedicated marketing department, might scoff at the idea, citing lack of time, or topics to write about, as reasons for neglecting their company blog. If they ever started one in the first place. In doing so, they are robbing themselves of the benefits a well-managed company blog creates.
Admittedly, many of these benefits are only realized after some time, but long-term benefits are much better than short-term gains. In this article we will explain six benefits of blogging, before presenting 10 quick blogging tips your SME should be following.
For many years it was the number of inbound links, and the use of keywords, that influenced how a website ranked in search results. With a better understanding of how people search, and how site owners manipulate links and keyword use, content value and freshness have been added to the list of influences search engines use when weighting results. Several variables apply in determining content value, but freshness is relatively simple – how frequently is the content on your website updated? And the easiest way to update your website regularly is through the introduction of a blog.
Introducing a blog to your company website, and posting to it regularly, will positively influence how visible your website is in search engine results. This is through a combination of factors, including:
Blogs have a way of making businesses more personal. By sharing advice and information, you show that you are interested in building relationships, not just in closing a sale. It also gives you an opportunity to show your audience that you are an authority in your field, allowing you to build your reputation, and to establish trust. If the content you publish lends itself to being shared, this reputation and trust can then be amplified whenever your audience shares any of your content on their social networks.
Adding value to your customer’s experience isn’t something that automatically follows the launch of your company blog. Instead it is something that builds over time, and is conditional to the amount of effort you put into your blogging strategy. One blogging principle that receives a lot of attention is the 80/20 rule, which is summarized by Beatriz Arantes as:
20% of the content should be for sales purposes, self-promotion, lead generation and advertisement. The other 80% should be about your customer: the problems they usually have, interesting data regarding your industry and other things that can be linked to your brand but not purely sales content.
It is only by following this rule that you can add value to your customer’s experience. You as a business owner also get to benefit, since this principle forces you to learn more about your customers; it challenges you to ask, “how can we help you?” Ruby Receptionists’ blog is full of informative articles that talk to their core audience, and even the posts that pitch the service are written in a similar style.
Although not the only way to increase brand awareness, blogs are an effective, and low-cost tool for this. Unlike other marketing methods, blog posts continue to bring in traffic long after they were first published. As previously mentioned, regularly posting valuable information that is relevant to your audience has the potential to increase the number of websites linking to your content, while it definitely improves your visibility in search. Your brand awareness grows not only as a result of your company being more visible online, but also through having more people talking about it.
Each post you publish to your blog is seen as a separate page by search engines, and the more pages your website has, the more visible it is online. A large number of pages on your website not only increase visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs), it also increases the number of inbound links to your content and website. This, in turn, can result in a larger number of leads being generated – in the form of clicks on any call-to-action links, email subscriptions, and general customer enquiries. A study conducted by Hubspot found that companies with 51-100 page websites generate 48% more traffic than those with fewer than 50 pages, while companies with 101-200 pages of content on their website generate more than twice as many leads as companies with fewer than 50 pages of content.
Generating leads isn’t of any benefit unless you manage to convert them to sales, and an increase in the number of leads you generate does not automatically translate into additional sales. Part of the process still depends on you and your sales team, but blogging can help the process if your content manages to answer many common questions asked by your customers. A prime example of this in action comes from River Pools and Spas, as shared in the introduction to Jay Baer’s Youtility. Acting as a consumer instead of a sales person, co-owner Marcus Sheridan set about answering thousands of questions he had been asked by prospects and customers over the years. He did this in thoughtful and detailed blog posts on the River Pools and Spas website following the financial crisis of 2007-08, taking the company from the brink of bankruptcy to one of the largest pool sellers in the US, with 75% of their customers completing a purchase without ever talking to a sales person.
Deciding whether or not to read an article based on the headline is the digital equivalent of judging a book by its cover; and we’re all guilty of doing it at some point. Many articles have been written on the subject of headlines. Use the recommendations of these articles as a guide, but also pay attention to the amount of traffic each of your articles attract. Over time you will be able to see what headlines appeal most to your specific audience.
You should already know who your customers are – both actual and potential – and what their problems/challenges are. You would also know what types of questions they ask, and what their general demographics are. And this is who you write for: answer their questions, present solutions to their problems, and write about industry related news and developments that would interest them.
How many of you have avoided starting a company blog based on the misconception that you have to publish something daily? While it is true that blogs that are updated daily attract more traffic than those that only update once a week, it isn’t a schedule that many SMEs can manage. However, the overall benefit of only publishing a single blog post each week is still better than publishing sporadically, or not at all. What counts is the quality of the content shared, not the quantity, so decide on what you can comfortably manage, and create a schedule around it.
P.I. Roofing is a small, local business, but their website includes a professional blog that is informative, relevant to their audience and updated every Wednesday.
As mentioned in the introduction, many of the benefits of blogging are only realized after some time; after you have built up a library of content, grown your audience, and begun to establish yourself as a subject matter authority. And all of this content is always available, meaning that the bulk of it needs to remain relevant for years after it was first published; what is commonly referred to as evergreen content. Linking some of your content to current events, seasonal holidays, or significant trends helps to humanize your brand, but only a fraction of your content should do this; the rest should be able to remain relevant regardless of the month, season or year.
Tucked away inside the evergreen content on the blog for J.F. Kruse Jewelers is a post on wedding ring trends for 2015. This is very relevant to the nature of this business, and even though it will be replaced by new trends in 2016, the bulk of the content in the blog is still timeless.
A variation of the 80/20 rule states that you should spend 20% of your time creating your content, and 80% of your time promoting it. Creating great content won’t benefit your business if nobody is reading it, so help people discover it by sharing it across your social media networks. If any of your posts mentions other brands, or your suppliers, reach out to them to see if they would be interested in sharing the post across their own networks.
People read differently on the Internet, so avoid posts that look like a slab of text by:
New Horizons manufacture luxury RVs, and while they don’t have a dedicated blog, they do use video’s to give potential clients a look inside the business. Although the video’s are about the business, they are inform and help potential clients far better than plain text and a photo gallery could.
Having a website (and blog) that isn’t specifically optimized for viewing on desktop computers and mobile devices doesn’t only shut out at least 20% of your audience, it can actually harm your search engine visibility. Early in 2015 Google began penalizing websites that weren’t optimized for mobile devices, ranking them below websites that were optimized.
Leading on from establishing how frequently you are able to update your blog is the principle of using a content calendar. In its simplest form, a content calendar is a document listing all of the topics you intend writing about in the near future. How far in advance you plan is up to you, but aim for at least 3-months ahead, and listed with each topic should be the date on which you intend publishing the article. This not only helps you to schedule time for writing, it also helps prevent any instances of not knowing what to write about.
No matter how well you know your audience, or how much time you spend crafting headlines and planning perfect posts, you will never know exactly what resonates with your audience unless you analyze the performance of each post. Look at traffic numbers, but also traffic sources. Look at how many times it was shared on social networks, but again, look at which social network was most popular. Knowing what posts are most popular will help you plan your future content – from headline, through to subject matter, and even the structure or layout.
A reminder, in case you missed it earlier: the focus of your blog is not about how great your company is, but about how you can help your audience. Keep promotional content – the type that focuses on selling a service or product – as a fraction of content that informs, educates and helps your audience.
In closing, remember that all of this does take time, and patience. Don’t try to sacrifice too much of your time in maintaining your company blog, but also don’t expect noticeable benefits immediately. Your company blog is a long-term project that depends on a workable strategy, and sticking to a schedule.