What started out as a means to keep an online personal journal has perhaps become the best medium to distribute content. Yes, blogs are one of the best ways to reach across to your audience and helps a business to stand out from the competition. When the audience is offered valuable and informative content over a period of time, it provides an avenue to nurture relationships with customers and prospects. With time, a brand would be able to turn their visitors into qualified leads and later into loyal customers.
The word ‘Blog’ originated from the shortening of the term “Weblog”. In the early days, it was necessary for bloggers to be technically competent about coding and associated aspects to run a blog. But, as blogging grew in popularity, there came publishing tools that made the entire exercise a breeze. Today, anybody with the internet can publish a blog on a topic that he wants to share with the world. A brief look at the numbers would give you exact ideas about blogs:
25% of all websites online are blogs
There are over 152 million blogs online
77% of internet users read blogs regularly
A blog post is published every 0.5 seconds
Blogs are the fifth most trusted source of information
This can give some foresight about considering a blog as a medium for effective outreach. It is a well-known fact that businesses that run successful blogs are known to generate more leads. This write-up seeks to spell-out reasons why a business must have a blog and underlying reasons how it helps a business to succeed.
What is a Business Blog?
A business blog is a stand-alone or section of a website that contains content related to the industry the company is involved in. It is an essential component of content marketing for business outreach targeted at existing and potential customers.
Reasons to Have a Business Blog
No matter which industry you are in, there will always be a set of audience that would be motivated enough to read industry-specific content. These could be customers, prospects, competitors, potential partners or anyone seeking to understand the industry to solve a re-occurring problem. Here are the reasons why you must have a business blog:
Online Visibility: In a world where every brand is eager to gain online visibility organically, a blog is the best way to go about. Informative and value-based content with a good sprinkling of strategic keywords backed by consistent promotion on social media can propel a blog to gain visibility on search results, which in turn would drive traffic to the website. Thereby, improving brand awareness, engagement and conversions on the website.
Relatively Inexpensive: Improving the visibility of the brand through traditional means of marketing requires deep pockets and sustained campaigning. In contrast, launching a blog to gain visibility among a specific set of the audience would only cost a fraction than print & media. This is especially true for brands that demand a certain degree of understanding before the usage of the product or service. Blogs can serve as the ideal medium to educate customers about the brand without requiring a fortune to be spent on acquiring a new customer and retaining existing ones.
Trustworthy & Informative: You can be assured about the fact that when an audience wants an in-depth understanding of a brand or industry-related topic, they would read a blog. Initially, the users may gravitate towards a video or other content-type to get a superficial understanding of a topic, but for an established understanding, they would search for long-form content defining the specifics. When a blog facilitates a good understanding of a topic, it can result in word-of-mouth marketing among users.
Content Availability: Having a long-running business blog can provide a brand with a substantial amount of content. This can satisfy the demands of a multitude of online marketing channels. Social media is always in need of new and fresh content, a brand can always re-purpose content on the blog to serve the purposes of social media channels. Also, in case you want to create a credible lead-magnet in the form of an e-book, then the blog can provide a brand with the most relevant content for doing so.
Credible Content Strategy for a Business Blog
Executing a business blog may sound quite straight-forward. But a good level of planning can improve the chances of success and a systematic approach can help sustain a blog in the long-run without it going off-track in a short period of time. Here is a look at content strategies that need attention:
Define Goals: Well-established goals help you put things in perspective. A blog can accomplish a variety of goals, but remaining focussed on a few relevant goals can make all the difference. A blog can – build a brand, educate prospects & potential customers, provide new updates on products, attract customers, drive traffic to your website and even increase footfalls to your store or office. Among these, select no more than 2 or 3 goals, else the blog can become unfocused. Moreover, have goals with specificity defined by a time frame such as “Improve traffic to the blog by 15% in 2 months”. Makes it measurable and achievable.
Audience Research: Unless you are certain about who you are writing for, you will continue to shoot in the dark while writing blogs, hoping it finds a regular audience. Such an attitude can be done away with, by incorporating audience research at the planning stage. Have insights about audience behaviour - Where they spend time online (social media, forums, blogs etc), What are the recurring pain-points that can be addressed or What do they enjoy reading online and their reading habits. Such information can be extracted through online surveys, interviews or doing research on sites like BuzzSumo, Google Trends, or Answerthepublic. Once you are certain about the underlying motivations of the audience, it can streamline the creative process of writing a blog.
Competitor Research: Paying close attention to the competition would provide you insights into what’s working for them and opportunities where you can improve. Your blog has to provide more value than the competition to stand out from the clutter. In terms of specific tactics, you can audit 5-7 competitor blogs to imbibe understanding about specific techniques being adopted, type of content finding more preference and how they fair with keywords & associated ranking on SERP. Keeping an eye on the competition can keep you well-informed about any new strategies or tactics and ward-off any surprises from your rivals in business.
Keyword Research & Topic Ideas: In all fairness, it has to be accepted that keywords are a crucial ingredient for effective blogs that find visibility on search results. First, begin by selecting words you want to rank that have high search volume and low competition. Next include the keywords in the title, body, headers, alt-image text while remaining within the norms set by Google. Finally, get backlinks with your main keywords as anchor text from relevant sites. Coming to selecting topics, your blogs need to be enhanced by your domain knowledge and the select keywords must compliment it. Do not get swayed by keywords to arrive on topics which can only mean writing for search engines and not for the reader.
Create a Blog Calendar: This is an effective tool to keep you on track with consistency in content quality and keep you ahead of time. The most effectual calendars would incorporate email marketing and social-sharing information within them to make the whole process run systematically. It would help - organize all blog types, give visibility on what’s done well, when the next blog is due, which persona is getting targeted and which stage of the sales funnel is the blog meant for. In case, you are low on budget – you can always use free tools like Google calendar or create a calendar on a spreadsheet.
Create Compelling Content: Now comes the actual creation of content. First, ensure there are no grammatical errors and unnecessarily complex sentences loaded with jargon. Second, research well to include statistics, case studies and examples wherever applicable. Third, include high-quality and relevant images suiting the context. Fourth, format the content with short paragraphs, bullet points, headings, sub-headings, italics for easy reading. Ensure you are providing value to your audience through informative and purposeful content.
Promote the Blog: Once the blog is in place, but if nobody reads it, the whole effort gets wasted. The best way to promote a blog is with an email list, send a mail introducing your blog and its content to your subscribers. Second, post on social media about the blog multiple times with slight changes in the message to get better traction among your followers. Third, remain active on community forums through answering questions and participating in discussions. Once you find acceptance from group members, you might be able to promote blog content. Fourth, run Facebook Ads to get a better reach. Fifth, create content that is share-worthy and reach out to prominent names in the industry to feature your content on their site and a possible link back. These are general tactics but don’t be limited by them, there are a lot more.
Analyze your Results: To validate whether you are achieving your goals, you need to keep track of necessary metrics that determine the results. Once you are able to assimilate which metric contributes to a positive income, you can optimize the strategy accordingly. These could be the broad outline of metrics to be taken note of:
Number of subscribers
Pageviews per Blog post
Number of backlinks
Number of conversions
Have certainty on whether the metrics are helping the brand, else try tweaking the strategy to achieve your goals. Also observe, if the blog is fitting into your broader business goals helping the brand attain optimum mileage with written content.
Things to Avoid After Launching a Business Blog
Now that you have launched a blog, it is necessary to stick with it, until results start flowing with least effort. This means, initially it is quite an effort to get your blog off the ground. Once you find your rhythm, it is easy to get on with the journey with consistency. Now here is a look at things, you need to avoid after having launched a blog:
Personal Preferences: You are the writer who gets to decide what goes up on the blog but clearly stay away from topics that you have a personal preference for. Always write with the intention to create engagement with the audience and write for them instead of yourself. In the long-term, you are looking to succeed with your blog. It would be safer to go with topics that get uncovered during research and these would potentially attract an audience.
Erratic Posting Schedule: Once you have launched the blog, post regularly according to a predefined schedule. Inform about any changes to your audience in advance. Conversely, if you post based on your whims and fancies, it is not going to help your case. The blog will be long forgotten before you gain any followers or subscribers. By remaining consistent helps create a loyal following that looks forward to your next post, even helping with word-of-mouth.
Impatience: After having - defined goals, done the necessary research and created content as per pre-defined criteria, you must be eager for positive results. But, blogs take time to show results. Meanwhile, you must focus on your efforts at promoting the blog on different online channels and remain certain whether all the blog-posts are getting indexed by Google. In time the results will follow. You have to remember there are thousands of bloggers who have followed the same process and have succeeded. In case you want quick results, you can go with Facebook Ads that does not cost much to begin with.
Avoid Selling: A blog is meant for top-of-funnel activity. In other words, a blog is created to provide valuable information about a brand without being pushy or salesy. A blog will drive the necessary traffic to your site, giving you an avenue to nurture leads which can be turned into customers. Hence remain mindful to provide a great experience to the reader through images, statistics, infographics to support your business argument and convince them about your product or service. This confidence will drive them to make a purchase decision.
Visible Benefits of a Business Blog
Brings Traffic to the Website: We all understand that there aren’t many pages of content on a standard website and these pages aren’t regularly updated. Blogs help solve both of these problems. Every new blog post added to the site, there is one more page indexed by Google on your website. This means one more opportunity to show up on search engines and drive traffic to the website organically. Coming to social media, each time a blog post is created, you give your followers a reason to engage with your content and maybe prompt them to share it. This brings in more visibility and a new set of audience to the blog & website.
Creates New Leads: After you get a steady stream of traffic to your blog, convert that traffic to generate new leads. Include a lead-generating call-to-action (CTA) to every new blog-post that gets published. The CTA takes the user to a free content asset (e-book, whitepaper or factsheet), which can be exchanged for some personal information. After the visitor clicks the CTA, he is taken to an exclusive landing page containing an opt-in form, which can be filled to receive the free offer. You need not aim for 100% conversion but include CTA with every blog post and set yourself with a visitor-to-lead conversion rate benchmark and try improving on that rate every month.
Builds Authority: If you answer the most commonly asked questions and remain sensitive to customer’s concerns and requirements in your blog posts. In addition, if you are providing unique insights to your target audience, and breaking down complex technical topics into a simpler language without jargon. Then, in time your blog would be regarded as an authority resource in industry circles and among your audience. It adds to your credibility as a brand and establishes credentials as a serious name in the business among partners and competitors. That said, it does take time to establish such a reputation and involves consistent and sustained efforts over a long period of time.
Creates a Relationship: Audience engagement is a very essential metric in online marketing. It gets a boost with blogging as you interact with your prospects and customers in an informal and conversational tone. Such a tone helps build trust while offering them value with relevant content. Trust gets built over time by showcasing the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into creating a product or service through the blog. This kind of storytelling through blogs can make the brand more humane and relatable, establishing an intimate relationship with the audience.
On the face of it, creating a blog is quite simple but there is a fair amount of planning that is required before the actual creation of a blog. Any brand serious about business outreach through content marketing must have industry-specific blogs that not only talk about the product but gives the audience unique insights about the industry that is relevant to the user. With time, the blog will deliver results with consistent traffic and enough leads for conversion.