For many companies, blogging is akin to content marketing. Of course there are many other content marketing tactics besides blogging, but because of the ease of publishing, promotion and optimization, it’s one of the more popular ways to connect with customers through content.
And yet there are challenges for many of the businesses that rely on blogging as an essential part of their content marketing mix. If you’re not happy with the performance of your business blog, here are 5 basic, yet often overlooked steps for making your blogging more effective.
1. Revisit Your Blogging Goals
Of course you’ve set goals for your blog. But how long ago was that? When was the last time you revisited those goals?
Much has changed since most companies started blogging ranging from the formats and topics people prefer to the cadence and use of media. You might have started blogging purely for marketing only to find that blogging better serves as a recruiting or customer service function. That’s why it’s important to set goals and to revisit them.
There are a variety of possible goals for starting a business blog. It’s even more important to evaluate progress towards that purpose and to make a shift according to your audience and business needs. Common goals include:
- Anchoring content marketing efforts for customer attraction, engagement and lead generation
- For public relations reasons, build thought leadership and attracting earned media coverage
- As a sales tool with an ecommerce backend or simply as a new product announcement platform
- To promote company culture and vision to inspire current employees and attract new candidates
- As product communication tool during development of for ongoing support communications
- A customer communications and feedback mechanism where the company presents ideas and readers can provide feedback
2. Who is Your Audience Again?
There’s some healthy skepticism about how well we can actually “know” who our blog readers are if they never interact. But it’s worth pursuing with the intent of narrowing down what you know so content and purpose can be more effectively aligned. Once you get a good idea of blog goals and purpose, identify broad audience types to flavor editorial and voice.
Typical audience types include:
- Industry constituents
- The media
A business blog can have multiple audience types of course and this makes it even more important to designate blog posts for specific audiences and even desired outcomes in the editorial plan. As you provide opportunities for blog readers to interact, you can collect the data necessary to refine audience segments and even develop distinct personas for content inspiration.
3. Make Sure Relevant Content Rules the Kingdom
Once blog goals and purpose are established or revised and you’ve refined who your target audience is, it’s time to evaluate blog content.
In a general sense, the trend in content is more visual, from images to video. Podcasts are also making an impact for certain types of blog audiences. It’s up to your assessment of blog engagement and observing industry trends to determine what media and topical mix makes sense. Just don’t make the mistake of being singularly focused in your approach.
We advocate a matrix approach with topics/keywords, audience segments, business objectives and content types all contributing to making sure content is royal.
A few tips on creating blog content:
- Follow an overall theme aligned to your target audiences and business goals
- Publish regular features on a consistent basis (Tactics Tuesdays, Friday News Roundups, Thought Leadership Mondays, Guest Posts Thursdays)
- Create an editorial calendar with some slots open for wildcards 1-2 quarters in advance.
- Ask for help in content creation (employees, customers, influencers, external writers)
- Optimize for discovery (search, social, subscription), engagement (topics, format), action (share, subscribe, inquire, refer)
- Leverage monitoring tools like BuzzSumo and SEMRush to see what content is performing well for your own blog as well as competitors – topics, titles, social shares, etc.
4. Socialize and Inspire Participation
If you go to a party and never talk to anyone, was it the party that was boring or was it you? The same goes with a business blog. In order to get, you have to give, so be sure to follow these tips:
- Read & comment on other blogs
- Link to & mention popular bloggers
- Respond to blog comments
- Make it easy to subscribe & share
Use services like Google Alerts or better yet, BuzzSumo alerts to identify when topics are mentioned in industry media or blogs that you can comment on.
Participation can come in the form of crowdsourcing topics and tips from your blog readers and social networks to co-creation with internal or external influencers. Regardless of how you approach content participation, always be sure to follow the golden rule of participation marketing: Ask people to co-create and then recognize their contribution publicly.
5. Adjust Measurement and Optimization Best Practices
There’s an adage in marketing that says, “If you can’t measure it, it’s not worth doing”. For the most part, I agree with that. Especially when it concerns content marketing and blogging. With the proliferation of tools now available, there are more ways to measure specifically how customers are engaging with our marketing messages than ever before.
As with the other suggestions above, blog measurement is in part dependent upon the blog purpose and audience. Any updates to the purpose and target audience for a blog must be followed by an evaluation of how key performance indicators are being monitored and performance optimized. A few ways in which blog effectiveness can be measured include:
- General web analytics (visits, referring sources, content consumption, actions taken)
- Search visibility and performance
- RSS feed or email subscriber stats
- Social shares and mentions
- 3rd party pickups of your blog content (blogs and industry media)
- Inbound links
- Actions – registrations, downloads, referrers to the corporate site and landing pages, forms filled out for inquiries
Adjust what you monitor, measure and optimize according to your blog’s purpose – marketing and customer acquisition, industry thought leadership and PR, employee engagement and recruiting.
Blogs can be tremendously productive if goals, purpose, audience, content and interaction with other relevant blogs is in alignment and kept fresh.
In the scheme of things, are these 5 tips basic? Of course they are! That’s why it’s such an ideal opportunity for improving business blog performance – most companies are not actively revisiting their blog goals, audience, content, participation or measurement beyond the initial strategy. What’s more common is to continue chasing the original premise for the blog without adjusting for changes in the target audience, business or industry.
By taking a proactive and flexible approach combined with ongoing analytics and refinement, there’s no reason a business blog cannot be one of the most productive tools in your content marketing arsenal.