“Why should we have a blog?” It’s a reasonable question.
Nevermind the fact that millions of businesses are blogging and multiples of those millions of customers are reading said blogs. In fact, 23% of the primary Fortune 500 corporations have an external corporate blog.
Blogs as a content management system make it very easy for content publishers within a company to surface informative, useful content directly to their “customers” and indirectly via search engines and social channels. Business bloggers report their activities have resulted in greater industry visibility, new customers & sales and thought leadership.
My take is that if a business has something interesting to say and stories to tell, then a blogging platform can be one of the most productive channels/methods for publishing and engaging. If not, then there are other, more important problems to solve.
For companies that are new to the idea of blogging as a brand, vs. individuals going out on their own and blogging about their professional passions, the notion of starting and maintaining corporate blog often invokes fears of being sucked into a black hole of “counterproductivity”. Writing, researching, IT support and hosting, plus marketing and measuring something that wasn’t forecast in the first place and without certain returns, can seem a lost cause.
For those optimists that are cognizant of the benefits of a blog communication channel but don’t have the forecast resources for it, here are a few tips on blogging that will get you started in the right direction in a manageable way.
1. Become a blog reader. I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t understand blogs from an information consumption point of view, it’s debateable whether you’ll be able to produce a successful one of your own. If you read certain magazines, newspapers or email newsletters from certain sources, try subscribing to their blogs instead – or as an alternative. That way you’re not spending additional time (outside of a few seconds subscribing) and you might even save some time.
2. Set goals for your business blog. If you don’t have a destination for your blogging effort then “time suck” will become your unwanted friend. Don’t waste time trying to serve everyone. Be purposeful in your blogging effort by identifying a few, reasonable business outcomes and timeframe. KPIs (key performance indicators) are a good starting point for measurement that can lead to outcomes.
For example, a common business outcome for blogging might be “increase relevant traffic to the corporate website”. A blog that publishes useful, customer centric content a few times per week gives reason to come back and to visit more detailed information on the corporate website.
Set a goal for a percentage increase in blog and keyword referred traffic to the corporate website. Create a blog editorial plan that pays attention to linking to corporate pages from topical blog posts and use keywords in the posts and links that are relevant to the destination pages. Over time, search engines will see those links and send more visitors to the corporate website by ranking the pages higher in search results. The links can also attract visitors directly.
The common mistake companies make is to set a goal like, “attract more blog referred traffic to the corporate website” and then start blogging personal or corporate centric information: announcements, product and press releases, PR speak and other chest beating.
Ignoring what would be of interest to customers is a FAIL when it comes to marketing, let alone blogging. How to find out what customers want on your business blog? Ask them. Ping customers in the corporate newsletter, ask them in person at events, talk to your sales and customer service departments for customer topics and trends. Look at successful competitor blogs and topically relevant industry blogs as well. Then create an editorial plan that gives your corporate blogging effort a chance to be successful by planning blog topics that serve customer needs and indirectly, business needs. As a result, the blogging effort will be more focused, intentional and likely to result in the desired business outcomes.
3. Create a schedule. A blog editorial plan serves multiple purposes, including putting into action the above suggestion. It also helps direct content creation for business blogs with multiple contributors. It keeps writers on track with content that will most likely meet customer and business needs. A planned blogging editorial schedule also helps when writers run into dry periods. Yet another benefit is that it creates a set of expected editorial for readers. It creates an element of predictability readers can count on to return to week after week.
For example, Mondays might focus on a message from the CEO or other business leader. By the way, if they won’t write it for you, call them and record a discussion on the topic. Then transcribe that recording into a blog post. Wednesdays might be a tips post about your product or service and Fridays might be a news roundup for the week. Tuesdays and Thursdays can be wildcards or days where you don’t post at all.
As time goes on, you can experiment with different schedules to see what works best. Creating a schedule and executing on it does add time, but it does so in a way that makes your business blogging effort a lot more efficient and productive. Showing measurable outcomes from early wins can help you gain additional support and resources for the blogging effort.
Along those lines, why not do a little blogger outreach with some connected friends in the media? Getting mentions of your new business blog on other high profile websites or blogs can inspire internal support.
4. Be efficient with content. There are many ways to get more out of less with content creation and knowing what does well already in combination with an understanding of what your target audience is interested in is essential.
One implementation of this kind of efficiency is the Oreo cookie news post. Set up Google or Twitter style alerts on topics you’re covering to identify potential sources. Setup the issue/topic (top of cookie), excerpt the topically relevant article/blog post (white stuff) and conclude with your own observations and a call to action for reader opinions (bottom of cooke). That’s a classic blog post and if the writer can be engaging with the setup and conclusion, it works very well for a corporate blog.
Another type of post that’s efficient is the blog review. Find ranked lists of blogs in your industry and pick a handful of blogs to review every month or whatever interval works for you. Create some basic criteria and score each blog. Include screenshots of each blog and describe what you like about them. Link to those blogs and offer a badge for them to use as “flair” if they want. Compile all those blogs into a list.
Interviews and guest posts (from internal sources, marketing partners, customers) can be especially effective and efficient. Writing interview questions takes time, but the responses are written for you and that can be the bulk of the post. Guest posts of course are entirely written by someone else, you simply need to source the writer and edit.
5. Make blogging a team effort. Our 7 year blog birthday for TopRank’s Online Marketing blog is coming up in a few days. After 7 years of blogging, I can tell you that very few individuals have what it takes to create unique, useful and compelling content for more than 6 months, let alone 7 years. That’s why a corporate blog really needs to be a team effort in the long run. It might fall on the shoulders of one person to start, but a smaller amount of effort from multiple people is more interesting, expands audience reach and it’s far more sustainable.
If you’ve started a business blog and weren’t successful with it or you’re thinking of how to implement a business blog efficiently with your online marketing mix, I can’t recommend enough the expertise of the team at TopRank Marketing. Few agencies have been involved with setting up business blogs as long as they have (I mean “we” but the magic happens with the TopRank team). Also, be sure to check out the blogging category here for numerous “how to” posts on many aspects of blogging for business.