The company blog is the tortoise of the content marketing race. It's been around and slowly plodding along for years slow and steady. When the hare (social media) bounded in and shook up the marketing scene with short-form, fast-paced, reactive content the faithful old blog was over-taken for a while. However, sure enough, it is still very much in the running and not to be underestimated!
Although of course social media is a very valuable part of any content marketing program, according to the Content Marketing Institute blogging remains one of the most popular forms of content marketing with 81% of B2B marketers including it in their marketing programs in 2016.
So we are agreed on the importance of having a company blog, but that doesn't make it easy to manage. You start the year full of great intentions, ideas and zealous. But, as Q1 slips into Q2 your time, enthusiasm and ideas have all but dried up. Once you start getting busy with your clients the marketing of your own company inevitably falls to the bottom of your to-do list. This then has a snowball effect and the longer you leave it to post another article, the faster it becomes a looming chore.
Here are some simple steps to make regular blogging far easier and less time and labour intensive.
1. Assign responsibility
The best idea at this stage would be to engage a digital marketing agency to provide guidance and develop a strategy for you. However, if you do not have a Marketing department or a digital agency working with you yet you can choose someone in your company to be responsible for the blog. This way it is managed as a function and someone is accountable for ensuring the quality, relevancy, content and that the tone of voice of the articles is consistent. This person will also be in charge of creating and maintain the content calendar (see below) and promotion of the articles.
It doesn’t matter what function the person performs in your company just make sure it is someone who is organised, understands your business, is enthusiastic and has good spelling and grammar!
As a Marketing team/digital agency would do, your blog manager's role is to create a content calendar. This can just be as simple as a bullet-pointed list or you can go as far as selecting the images you will include for the articles too. Work with your blog manager to identify the key themes relevant to your audience and plan topics to run throughout the next quarter or six month period. Also identify any upcoming events, campaigns or activities your company has planned which will be relevant for you to build content around.
2. Define your topics
Now that you have your dedicated blog manager it is time to think about what type of content you should be posting. First of all take a step back and think about who will be reading your blog. Will it be customers, clients, prospective employees? Once you have identified your audience, consider what topics are relevant and interesting to them. One purpose for your blog is to provide insight or advice on a topic that your audience might be searching for or is particularly interested in. By reading your blog post they then have exposure to your company and the services or products you provide.
If you are unsure of what topics would be of interest to your audience you can use Google Search Console which ties up with your site’s Google Analytics and analyses the search terms visitors to your website have used to reach you. By filtering through these search terms you may see some themes and recurring topics. These are a good start to build your content themes around.
Ideally the topics you choose should relate back or at least be relevant to content or services available on your website. The purpose of your blog may vary from demonstrating thought leadership to showcasing your products, services or staff. Regardless of what it is, ensure your blog has a purpose aligned with your business objectives and your blog manager is made fully aware of this. This will help dictate content themes and whether topics are relevant or not.
Perhaps you have some excellent writers within your company who would like to share their opinions and write regularly. Of course as this is an added function for your team it can quite quickly fall by the wayside. Investing in an external company or copywriter to produce content for your blog can be an answer to this. Many agencies offer content marketing as a service which can encompass the entire management of your blog and social channels as described. Alternatively it could be as simple as they create a strategy to fit your business, produce the design assets and write the articles for you, then you manage the ongoing publishing and promotion of the blog content.
3. Make it engaging
There is nothing worse than a blog article that doesn’t get to a point or provide digestible information. People don’t want to be faced with a bank of unbroken text when they were hoping for a quick light read. Here are some tricks to make your articles more engaging and easy to read:
Intersperse the copy with relevant images or infographics that illustrate and bring to life the topic of your article. Ideally you would have your design agency or team create these images however if this isn’t possible there are tools available that are very easy to use and provide a reasonably good result. One DIY site that has recently seen popularity is Canva here's an example of a very simple template you can create in a matter of seconds:
Time to read
‘Time to Read’ is a term Amazon coined for its estimates of how long a book would take to read on a kindle. It was an extremely popular feature and this theory has been applied to blogs too in order to increase engagement. When people are able to quantify a commitment they are going to make (in this case their time) they are more likely to engage. There are various sites which estimate how long your text will take to read but especially if you have diagrams and images a script timer such as Edge Studio’s is useful for a slightly more realistic timing of leisurely reader’s speed.
Break your content out into sections with clear headings. This way it is not only easier for readers to scan through to find relevant information but also on mobiles it is easier to navigate than a large body of text.
Pull out interesting excerpts from your text to entice the reader to continue or to highlight key points.
4. Improve your exposure to Search Engines (SEO)
Of course, you could write a scintillating article that is highly relevant to your audience but if you don’t optimise it for search engines, only people who already know about your blog will come across your articles. Recently Kunal went into a great deal of detail on how to optimise your website’s Google ranking so this is worth checking out. Here are some simple steps to ensure your articles are Search Engine Optimised:
Your page title needs to describe what the article is about and include a mix of branded and non-branded keywords
Ensure you have identified the keywords people will be searching for and make sure you include them but don’t ‘stuff’ your article full of them. Google isn’t that silly, it can tell if you are just spamming the article to bump up your SEO value - this can actually have a negative effect on your overall ranking.
A good rule of thumb with links is to include one to a reputable website in the first paragraph and then one to another relevant page on your own site in the last paragraph. You can include more than this where relevant but don’t go overboard. Instead of just hyperlinking individual key words try to include a phrase in a sentence for the link.
As a rule of thumb a blog article should be longer than 500 words. There is no limit and no official optimum blog length as it very much depends on your audience and your topic. As you may have read in Kunal’s recent blog, the longer the better from Google’s perspective. But be careful, it is important to hit the sweet spot between writing a long interesting post and boring your audience! We tend to post articles between 800 - 1,800 words in length.
It is important to post regularly, Google is always watching! Blogs that post regular content are favoured in Google’s ranking so make sure you are posting at least once a week to begin with and look to increase as you get into the swing of things.
5. Marketing your content
So, by this point you have someone managing your content, a relevant topic, an SEO friendly article but now you want to get as many people sharing and reading it as possible. So the next step is to spread the word on your social channels. Share it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ (if you use it) and anywhere other sites where you communicate with your audience such as Reddit. If you are seeing good engagement with your post you can look to sponsor a it to increase the amount of people who will see it. Aside from just sharing it as your company one of your best ways to get your article seen is by encouraging your employees to share with their own networks too. Again going back to the earlier point on engagement, make sure you have an attractive, relevant image associated with the article. Check the share image thumbnail that appears, you may need to edit it. A much higher percentage of people engage with content containing photos than that without. According to Twitter, tweets with photos get 313% more engagement (be careful to only use photos you have the rights to use).
Finally don’t forget to include a call to action at the end of your blog. If you would like to direct people to your services, products or a certain part of your website make sure clearly label this or instruct them what to do next.
There are of course many other ways you can ensure your blog is working effectively for your business but these simple steps should give you a good head start. If you would like to know more or would like to know how we could help please get in touch!