Blogging

Blogging has long been the mainstay of content marketing initiatives. Blogs give companies, brands, and individuals a designated space to publish original content. Many companies use blogging to promote thought leadership and brand awareness, but a blog article can have many uses throughout the marketing funnel.

Blogging has a long history of use for personal, political, and business purposes, and has become one of the mainstays of both content marketing and the internet as a whole. Many companies use their blog as a central component of their content strategy.

The benefits of blogging as a content marketing strategy include:

When planned well and updated with consistency, maintaining a blog can directly influence the success of a wide variety of marketing efforts.

What We Mean When We Say Blogging

Blog is short for web log, and it’s now the commonly accepted term for a collection of online articles written and catalogued by a website. Blogging originally gained popularity with political reporters who wanted a running record of events, and then the practice extended to businesses and individuals looking to put their knowledge and thoughts (and videos and images) out there for others to read and comment on. For free.

Free content? Why would anyone pursue that? It’s not sustainable! Well, yes and no. Giving readers access to your writing on a free blog is a non-threatening, non-sales-y way to gain exposure on the web. Companies and individuals use blogs to gain followers and brand awareness, build trust with their readers, and guide potential customers toward conversions. While the initial content is freely accessed, blogging can pay off big by filling the top of a marketing and sales funnel.

Who Should Blog

Blogging doesn’t work in a vacuum, or at least not if you want to grow your following. You have to promote your articles, otherwise no one will be able to find you. Without promotion, your content won’t rank, and you won’t get any traffic. Bolster your blogging with other content strategies that gain followers, drive signups, and move leads down a marketing funnel. We’ll go over these in the following sections.

Strategies🔖

Thought Leadership🔖

Blogging is the bedrock of a thought leadership content strategy. A blog is a living record of your knowledge and thoughts that followers and web-surfers can browse and search, read and share, and even comment if they like. Blogging for thought leadership means you create and consistently post blogs that are:

Publishing these sorts of blogs can garner a lot of attention from others in your field and readers looking for really good answers on the web. A thought leadership blog should be supported by other content marketing strategies and tactics like social media marketing, building multimedia posts, or hosting webinars.

Thought leadership posts

The beauty of thought leadership is that it thrives on giving searchers free access to your knowledge. That makes blogging a perfect vehicle for thought leadership, as blogs are designed as free marketplaces of knowledge–if you gate the content on a blog by putting it behind a contact form or a login screen, search engines can’t access it. If search engines can’t access your content, you won’t be found by readers. So be prepared to feel like you’re giving a lot of knowledge away for free. Embrace it or get over it.

Providing open, ungated access to your knowledge and industry insight doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan where your thought leadership efforts should live within your marketing funnel, and more importantly, what you want your readers to do after they’ve read your insights. Use focused calls to action to drive traffic further into your blog or toward a conversion.

By defining how you want your customers to act once they come to your page, you can plan how each piece of your thought leadership content fits into your user funnel.

Brand Awareness🔖

Blogging can increase search rankings, which can increase traffic, which in turn increases the number of people who actually know about your brand–brand awareness.

A blog builds awareness because it

You’re looking for people to see your logo, or a post from one of your writers, or a branded piece of content and think “I know who these guys are. They’re smart/funny/interesting/trustworthy/[insert adjective]. Let’s see what they have to say, and maybe we’ll buy their product one day.”

A blogging strategy that seeks brand awareness will also work to ground social media, email, or multimedia content efforts with content that means something. Use your blog posts to expand upon the ideas you present in short and longform content, and elaborate upon the values/interests/important topics that your brand stands for. By blogging, you contribute to the conversation in relevant topics for the industry, align yourself with other big-name brands or thinkers, and call attention to your own positive points.

Brand awareness as a content strategy includes so much more than just writing and publishing blog posts. Ensure that those writing efforts aren’t wasted by building an omni-channel marketing strategy that includes social media, email newsletters, and content outreach that promote your content and widen your audience.

Lead Generation🔖

Companies that use blogging as part of their lead generation content marketing strategy attract more leads to their websites. In one study, companies that blogged 11 or more times a month had almost 3x as much traffic as their competitors who blogged 0-1 times a month. Those consistent bloggers also got 4x as many leads as companies that only posted blogs 4-5x a month.

Using blogging as a part of your lead generation strategy might look something like this:

  1. An HVAC company set a goal to increase the number of customers who use their scheduled maintenance plan by 20%.
  2. They add a newsletter sign-up to the blog, so that interested readers can receive the most up-to-date information about HVAC service and repair.
  3. They then link to maintenance and repair-specific blog articles in the newsletter alongside webinars, courses, or longform download-only content forms that allow users to express interest in the products.
  4. Leads become prospects when they express interest in the products by exchanging an email address and other information for the gated content. The company can analyze the traffic to find out how often those prospects click on maintenance-related links, and build scorecards that sales reps can use to identify prospects ready to purchase a maintenance plan.

Blogging for lead generation is playing the long game: you attract users to your content, use that content to gain their confidence, and provide easy opportunities for prospects to give you enough personal data so that a salesperson can follow up to close a deal. Notice that in the example above, the marketers set up the website so that users self-serve and can choose when they want to express interest.

Just as with a thought leadership strategy, a lead generation blogging strategy requires that you give a lot of content away for free. Expect for many of your visitors to gather the info they need and walk away. That being said, you’re attracting folks to your website, where B2B marketers find a conversion rate of up to 10%. By providing everyone with interesting content that drives readers to conversion forms, your chances of increasing the overall traffic and in turn the number of conversions go up.

Customer Success🔖

A better informed customer is a happier customer. Blogging for customer success is a little bit of thought leadership and a little bit of technical writing. Combine writings on general-interest industry topics with product-specific how-to tutorials.

Many companies are scared of arming their customer with “industry secrets” because they feel they’re giving away some of their power. Alternatively, there’s a lot of power to be gained by letting the customer serve themselves at your information buffet:

  1. Bolsters your credibility as an expert because you can show what you know.
  2. Salespeople spend less time convincing prospects that they need what you’re selling if the prospects realize they know what they need
  3. Prospects self-select themselves for your product if they fit the target audience, which can lower attrition rates and churn.
  4. Customer service reps spend less time explaining industry concepts and more time deepening customer engagement, also reducing churn.

Provide educational content that promotes user awareness of products and processes that will make them happier with your product or service. This includes blogs that feature industry-wide knowledge articles, product how-tos, industry influencer interviews, research articles, and product tips and tricks. This strategy works really well when combined with thought leadership content strategies.

Tactics🔖

Combine these tactics with other omnichannel actions to fully round out each of your content marketing strategies. Each of these tactics can be used within a content strategy, although some are more helpful for certain strategies than others. You might find it easier to start with what you know to help build up some content, and then integrate the tactics you’re less familiar with as you find some success and time to learn.

Industry and Brand Topics🔖

By keeping a tight focus on important industry or brand-related topics, blogs can quickly gain relevancy in the online conversation. The best way to do this is by researching the most important topics facing your industry right now and choosing a couple of those topics that you can write on with authority. Your authority can come from anywhere: years of experience in the industry, good research and writing skills, or your ability to engage industry experts on the topics in question.

Build your brand authority with these types of blog posts:

SEO and Keyword Centered Content🔖

Should you write really good content or focus on building keyword optimized content? This debate will rage as long as Google doesn’t tell us exactly how their search algorithm works (so, forever?). Until that time, give yourself a healthy mix of both.

Plan your blog content by researching and choosing 3-4 broad topics that work for your industry. Then do a little bit of keyword research to find keyword-based blog topics that work for the kind of articles you want to write. Look for keywords with high monthly searches but low to medium competition. These counts are relative to the keywords, the industry, and the niches you want to write about.

General guidelines for writing keyword-focused content:

Most of all, write readable text. Use proper grammar, and don’t force keywords into the post where they don’t fit. Just throwing keywords into your posts won’t help you nearly as much as writing content meant to help human readers with answers to problems they’re actually searching for.

Guest Blogging🔖

Guest blogging (aka guest posting) means writing content to post on another company or individual’s site. Often this works as a blogging swap, where content creators from both companies write a post to feature on the other blog. This is a form of influencer marketing that exposes the existing follower groups from each company to the other and hopes to drive traffic and followers back to the poster’s blog or site.

An added benefit of guest blogging is that it often results in a link back to your site, which makes it a pretty useful backlinking strategy to help you raise your authority on the web and within your target audience.

General guidelines:

As you investigate guest blogging, you’ll probably run across some content that proclaims “Guest Blogging is Dead!” Don’t believe the hype. Plenty of folks still write posts for blogs other than their own and accept posts from writers they admire because it’s still a useful strategy to expand your follower audience.

What these alarmist (read: clickbait) posts really mean is that relying entirely on guest blogging as your only content strategy, spamming other blogs to get your content on their site, charging for backlinks, and using guest blogging as your one-and-only all-encompassing backlink strategy makes you look like a bad internet neighbor, and can decrease your overall authority with your audience. Don’t do those things. Treat guest blogging as what it is: one tool among many in your content marketing toolbox.

Case Studies🔖

Need definitive proof that your product helps people? Write a case study and publish it on your blog. Marketing sites are filled with claims that their products optimize, simplify, and probably do the dishes and make the beds, too. Customers who are ready to convert are going to need some proof that your product works, and is better for them than the other options, and many find that in case studies.

A case study usually includes:

Case studies bring authority to your blog, as they are easy research pieces that you can accomplish by quickly emailing the customer a set of questions and rewriting the answers. Emailing your questions to the customer saves you from having to transcribe your answers, worry about recording, or actually talk on the phone with another human (ick.). It will also allow you to quote accurately in your case study.

Multimedia🔖

Let’s face it, nobody wants to read anything on the internet anymore. You’re probably skimming over this paragraph right now. Once technology started making it easy to make and post videos, custom images, and infographics to the web, our collective attention spans have decreased. Respond in kind with your blog content by filling your posts with multimedia content that’s sure to grab attention and doesn’t require folks to read.

Types of multimedia content to use in your blog:

A good rule of thumb for multimedia content on your blog is to include introductory text for all multimedia items to give them a little bit of context and transcripts for any videos, webinars, or podcasts. Padding your multimedia content with informative text serves a couple of purposes:

Longform🔖

Longform content refutes the statement we made in the last section: turns out people will read blog posts, and long posts perform particularly well. SerpIQ found that the top ranking posts for many search queries were over 2000 words.9 To fill up those long 1000+ word posts, you’ve gotta include a lot of really informative content, which in turn makes those article rank well, which means they get read even more.

According to a 2013 study done by the blogging platform Medium, the optimal length of a blog post is 1600 words, which takes readers an average 7 minutes to consume. Longform content takes a long time to make, but it can result in big payoffs.

Try some of these longform content pieces:

No one is suggesting that you use longform content as your only type of blogging content. Producing only longform content would be unsustainable and frustrating. Use longform content to deal with big, important topics, and build smaller (and easier to write) blog posts that support those longform pieces.

Content Creation🔖

Blogging requires that you focus your writing on a few topics that you know really well–don’t try to recreate Wikipedia. Research what topics other thought leaders in your industry write about, and build a list of those that you can speak on with authority. From that list, start building longer, researched, and well-written content that speaks to your personal (or brand) position on the topics. These longform pieces can be used as individual blog posts or pillars that you build smaller and even more focused blog posts around.

Keyword Research🔖

SEOs will probably fight forever about whether keyword research is necessary or if deep and informative content will win the day, but for our purposes here, we’re going to strike a balance.

Yes, you need to do keyword research to help you build your content calendar and maybe to gain some ranking in the SERPs, but no one can promise you that only targeting keywords will get you to #1 in the search rankings. That’s like saying that if you learn to dog paddle you can swim the English Channel. Sure, it’s possible, but it’s not likely. You want to have a few more strokes in your swimming arsenal before you try to swim the Channel.

Use keyword research to direct your writing, not as your only strategy. Use these steps:

  1. Build a list of subjects that are pertinent to your industry or product.
  2. For each of those subjects, define topics. These should be workable chunks that you can feasibly write about in 500-2000 words.
  3. Research keywords within your topics that have a high monthly search history, and brainstorm the types of articles you can write for each of those topics.

The keywords you choose should have that sweet spot between high volume and low competition, so that your article has a chance of ranking for the keyword.

Tools for finding and tracking keywords:

When adding keywords to your content, you want to add the keywords enough times to get noticed by search engines, but not so many times that it’ll feel forced to human eyeballs. Here’s where you should and shouldn’t add keywords:

Do:

Don’t:

Strategy Alignment🔖

When you start planning your content, do so with your overall marketing goals and strategies at hand for reference. For example, if you hope to increase your customer success metrics, you’ll want to ensure the keywords you target and the subjects of your articles and posts move you toward that customer success goal. Write out your strategy, document your keywords, and plan your tactics and topics in a central location that can be referenced by the whole team.

When you build your strategy, dig up your marketing personas and align your strategy to those personas. What audience is each piece of writing or multimedia post build for? What does the audience look like, and what do you hope they will do with your writing. Your content writer should have targeting toward persona, audience, and strategy at hand before they even begin brainstorming.

Alignment toward a targeted customer audience (rather than just anyone) can help reduce churn. First, identify your ideal customer and target that persona or audience type with your content. Then build your content funnel and sales pipeline to the needs of that ideal customer persona. Targeting a focused audience will attract more of that kind of reader, which should eventually pay off in attracting buyers that find success with your product, effectively reducing churn and building repeat customers. You’ll also gather readers who fit into other types of personas, but instead of casting a wide net with a low close and high churn rate, focus on the niche that gives you high recurring revenue.

Your strategy alignment doesn’t end with writing the content. Make sure that your CTA drives readers toward your greater marketing goal, and link to supporting content on the page as downloads and suggested reading. The entire environment of the blog post should work to move customers down the funnel, increase engagement, generate leads, or otherwise align with your strategy.

Content Calendar🔖

Making a content calendar, and sticking to it, is the first step in filling your blog with great content that gets noticed. A content calendar will help you and your content creators stay on track with your strategy, keywords, and a posting schedule.

Your calendar might actually live on a spreadsheet, because there you’ll be able to add all the pertinent information about what you post and how that aligns with your strategy. Share your spreadsheet with all those on the content team, and solicit pitches from everyone on the team for future content ideas based on your strategy needs and keyword targets.

Some tips:
Figure out how often you can handle posting. If you’ve got a small team that’s focused on things other than building blog content, you may only have resources (time, energy) to post 1-2 times a month. If you’ve got a lot of resources or a dedicated content writer or two, you can probably build enough of a backlog to post once or twice a day. Choose your posting goal based on how often you can produce high quality content and keep up a consistent posting schedule.

On your spreadsheet, include a column where you list the strategy and the target audience. Choose how many of each type of post you’re going to focus on per month and use this column to ensure you’re hitting your targets. So, if you’re pushing for a customer support strategy, maybe you post 2 articles a month that take deep-dives into how to use your product.

If you have chosen keyword topics, make sure you hit each topic periodically, while also watching for content that could pull readers from your posts with high rankings. This is a careful balance that you want to strike. Use keyword variations as the focus of different posts that also have to do with your main topic.

Track authors, output, publication dates, and any other pertinent information. Having all of this in a single spot unifies the team around the content strategy and could even lead to content specialists planning ahead with their assignments so you build a backlog of items to post.

Formatting for the Web🔖

Attention spans are getting shorter, and our worlds are filled with more and more distractions each day. Formatting text for the web requires that you take into account the competition for the reader’s attention.

TL;DR: format posts to draw attention the the most important takeaways from your article, and write to capture interest and keep the reader’s eyes moving down the page.

Listicles🔖

Literally an article that features a list. Whether ordered (numbered) or unordered (bulleted), listicles appeal to us. They’re scan-friendly, and allow the reader to easily skip to the most interesting topics. There aren’t really any rules here, but preface your list with some sort of introduction and wrap it up with a conclusion that ties into your CTA.

Short Paragraphs and Sentences🔖

Using short, easy to read sentences actually makes the readers eyes speed up on the page. And they’re fun. Careful that you temper your short sentences with longer, more complicated sentences and paragraphs. Variety keeps the reader’s interest.
Note: Don’t go overboard Some bloggers have recently started using one-sentence paragraphs for entire posts. Take this article from thought leader Neil Patel’s blog: Understanding User Behavior Using Google Analytics The content itself is pretty good, but the format is frustrating: every sentence is its own paragraph. While this helps the reader’s eye move down the page, it also ignores that paragraphs are an essential way to categorize information for a reader. We use paragraphs to contain several sentences from the same topic, and a paragraph break signals that another topic is coming. Making every sentence its own paragraph trades the reader’s ability to distinguish larger topics within the post for an “increased engagement.”

Above all, focus on readability. What makes sense for what you want the reader to do on the page.

Other Text Elements🔖

Add mid-section lists, step-by-step instructions, pull-quotes, bold, underlined, or highlighted text that will break up longer paragraphs and draw the reader’s eyes to the most important takeaways from each section.

Images🔖

Include images in your posts for several reasons:

  1. They break up the text and give readers’ eyes a break
  2. You can be creative, funny, or informative with them
  3. They’re good for SEO (because they’re good for reader engagement)
  4. They give you a free space to add keywords within ALT Text (if you’re into that sort of SEO)

Use images to illustrate the claims and major points of your post, and to entertain where appropriate.

GIFs🔖

GIFs have officially joined the mainstream as additions to business posts because they’re so popular and shareable. The rise of the GIF has coincided with the increase of internet speeds and computer processing power.

via GIPHY

Watching a GIF is like watching a small movie; it makes a visually appealing statement in a short amount of time. They make up that sweet spot between mobile-ready images and engaging video content.

GIFs are pretty well ingrained in internet culture, so speaking the language of GIF can go a long way to convey your company voice, attract and engage your target audience, and build brand awareness.

Special Characters (emoji or emoticons)🔖

We love using emoticons because they put the context of facial expressions back into print. Text often loses a lot of its emotive context because we don’t have ways to indicate nuanced emotions like understatement, sarcasm, or facetiousness that we would otherwise convey with our voices. Short of the entire internet agreeing on a sarcasm font, we’ll have to use emojis to lighten the intentions of our text 😁.

In addition, emoticons and special characters just look good. They stop the eyes and make readers take notice. When you include emoticons in a post title (like on the Raven Tools blog) or within in the text of your blog post, it makes that particular line of text stick out.

Whether or not your company uses emoji on your blog should be a matter of company style and tone of voice. It might not be appropriate to use emojis in blogs about life insurance death benefits :skull:, whereas a lifestyle brand for :puppy face: should probably consider it.

Bookmarks🔖

Bookmarking within a blog post lets readers skip to the section of your post that they’re most interested in reading. This is especially good for extensive posts (like this one!) that undertake ambitious coverage.

Bookmarking within a post links portions of the text together, letting the reader navigate easily through the content and back by clicking on a link. You can use a text link; a special character like our 🔖, or any other element you can link to indicate your bookmark.

A byproduct of this awesome in-post navigation is that bookmarking builds internal linking in your post, and lets search engines index the location of information within your posts. Search engines want to help users get right to the information they’re searching for, and bookmarks let the search engine link users directly to the portion of your content that answers their question, skipping irrelevant content.

Loading Speed🔖

Page load speed refers to the amount of time it takes a page to load on the user’s screen after they click a link. It’s not technically a content element of the blog post, but it’s important to take into consideration when you build each of your posts.

The faster a page loads, the more likely a search engine will link to it (among a lot of other factors including how informative your content is on that page) because it reduces the hang time between the search engine and the content. The search engines are all about giving users the fastest access to the most informative content.

Build your posts so they load quickly on both desktop and mobile (links to the page load tools) with these guidelines:

This list doesn’t even begin to cover all the ways you can optimize your sites for speed, but the site makefastsites.com has even more information.

Publishing and Promoting🔖

Blogging is one of the best-supported and easiest to use forms of content creation on the web right now. Bloggers of all experience levels can find free or cheap and easy to use platforms that can spin up a blog in just a few minutes.

Content Management Systems (CMS)🔖

These are platforms that are build for blogging. The most widely known and used blogging platforms are WordPress and Blogger (a company in the Google-Alphabet universe). These have captured a majority of the bloggers on the web due to the ease of setup and use. Following close on their heels are WYSIWYG CMS systems like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly that offer easy to use drag and drop editors that help bloggers build a website quickly and without a lot of coding.

Whatever CMS you use, you’ll want to do your homework as to how expensive the platform is, what sort of options they have for hosting on their domain (home URL) or self-hosting on a domain that you own.

For example, you can build a free website with little to no coding on the WordPress.com website at a domain that will look like “yoursubdomain.wordpress.com“. If you want to strip the “.wordpress.com“ domain, you’ll need to buy your own domain name and upgrade to a paid version of WordPress.com or build your own site on the WordPress.org platform, which will mean learning to code or paying a developer to build your site for you. On the other hand, you can buy a domain and host it on Squarespace, but you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for their hosting.

Social Blogging Platforms🔖

There are a lot of social media-based blogging platforms out there. A perk of publishing on these platforms is that you get a built-in community where others can find, read, and share your posts.

Medium🔖

Medium is a social blogging platform known best for its white background and reader-friendly formatting with easy to read fonts and few ads. Post your content on Medium with tags to have it sorted with the right subject matter. Follow individuals, publications, and tags to get the best content in your Medium dashboard.

LinkedIn Publisher🔖

LinkedIn Publisher is available for individuals on the LinkedIn platform. Write and post your content in the easy to use text editor, and publish your post to your timeline where other readers can access it and read it in the Publisher reader. For more information about content marketing on LinkedIn, check out our blog post on the 5 types of marketing you can do there.

Tumblr🔖

Tumblr is a multimedia-heavy microblogging platform that lets you post content of all sizes. This is an especially good blogging platform for lifestyle brands looking to connect with new audiences.

Promoting🔖

While it would be awesome if the rest of the internet just knew about your amazingly thoughtful and artfully crafted blog post as soon as you published it, flocking to read it from all corners of the digital world. Unfortunately, the blogosphere is pretty crowded, and you’ll have to promote your work to get it noticed. Many of the blogging platforms provide you with a way to instantly share your blog post on your social media accounts when you hit that publish button. Here are a couple of suggestions for promotion best practices:

Performance Reporting🔖

It’s important to designate a particular business goal that you want your content to achieve. Possible metric-based goals you can achieve with blogging include:

Align the metrics that you follow and analyze to the business strategies that you’re hoping to achieve. What metrics show that you’re moving toward your goals?
These are the most-used metrics for each of the content strategies.

Published on May 21st, 2017 and last updated on September 7th, 2017