Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Company Blog

Most businesses today understand the need for content marketing. Running a company blog is one of the easiest ways to get your message out to the world and boost your SEO. Many companies outsource this function to a third party in order to focus on their core competencies. Whether you have outside help for your company blog, or you have an internal employee managing here, there are five major pitfalls many bloggers fall in to which hinder the impact of the effort.

This article is so on-point and well-cited with perfect examples, I am just going to share it with you verbatim. Credit to Jodi Harris of the Content Marketing Institute.

Full article here: http://bit.ly/1pF55iM

Problem 1: You aren’t publishing on a consistent schedule

Great blog content should be like an eagerly anticipated gift you offer to your readers – they look forward to every new delivery and are happy to visit your site to retrieve your content as soon as it is available. But what happens when they arrive and the gift they were expecting hasn’t shown up? If you can’t keep the content engines churning or fail to deliver on the expectations you set with your blog, those readers will walk away disappointed – and may think twice about returning.

Warning signs: Consistency issues typically result from one of these two underlying problems:

  • Lack of editorial infrastructure: You haven’t set a workable schedule for creating and publishing your content or established the necessary workflow that would govern your process.
  • Lack of resources: You need more writers or more creative ideas; or you are running into productivity problems that are keeping your team from being able to bring your ideas to fruition.

Potential solutions:

  • Develop an editorial calendar: Establishing a schedule of topics you will cover and the timeline for doing so can help you set realistic expectations and keep your content creation in line with your marketing goals. These editorial calendar essentials will help get you started.
  • Brainstorm ideas to fill your content calendar: Brainstorming techniques, like this super-simple sticky-note approach, can help you break out of any creative slumps that might be derailing your content production,
  • Enlist the help of your team members for content creation: Your executives, team members, and even colleagues outside of the marketing department can be motivated to help increase your content coffers. Use these tips to make content creation a benefit – not a burden – for your fellow employees.

 

Problem 2: Your blog content isn’t unique or distinct

For your content to stand out among the competition, it needs to offer distinctive value – providing information your readers can’t get anywhere else, serving a segment of your audience no one else is addressing, or delivering on promises your brand is uniquely qualified to make.

Warning signs: If you aren’t giving your audience a compelling reason to choose your content over everything else they could be spending time with, your blog will never reach its full marketing potential. Here are some sure signs your content is going to fade into the background:

  • You don’t know what makes your brand special: You need to identify the specific ways your business is different than everyone else’s before you can create content that communicates with a signature tone, voice, or style.
  • You are targeting too broad an audience: As CMI founder Joe Pulizzi often says, if your content is meant for everybody, it won’t benefit anybody.

Potential solutions:

  • Craft your editorial mission statement: This sets the tone for all your content creation efforts by defining your unique perspective on your industry and outlining the value proposition your blog content will offer.
  • Find a new niche: If you don’t believe you can be the leading information provider in your chosen content niche, you haven’t drilled down deeply enough to find the right angle – for your blog or any other content your business offers. Struggling to find your footing? Try following Joe’s advice for creating a content tilt.
  • Get creative with your approach: Sometimes the power of a blog isn’t rooted in what you say but rather in how you say it. Look for opportunities to take your blog readers down an unexpected path, approach topics from a unique angle, or explore special interests that your brand and its fans may have in common. Check out these75 examples for a little inspiration on taking content in a novel direction.

Best practice example: Saddleback Leather

saddleback-leather-blog-story

Problem 3: Your blog is all about you – not your audience and their needs

Warning signs: Ever meet someone at a party who goes on and on about himself, without showing any interest in the people he’s talking to? If your brand is “that guy,” your readers will eventually grow tired of not being heard and look for any excuse to leave the conversation – for good.

Potential solutions:

  • Highlight ways readers can get involved in your brand, and recognize them for their efforts: Don’t just say you are interested in your readers – prove that you value their participation and feedback by responding to their comments, creating opportunities for them to contribute their ideas, and rewarding them for helping you spread the word about your business.
  • Demonstrate your understanding of their needs by addressing common pain points and providing relief: Create content with tangible value such as tips, templates, and toolkits; answer your customers’ questions; or give your audience access to other real-world solutions that will enable them to accomplish their tasks more quickly and more effectively, with your brand at the top of their minds.

Best practice example: Clean My Space

clean my space blog

Problem 4: Your content has a short shelf life or limited reach

Content can be the gift that keeps on giving – for your brand, as well as for the consumers who love it. But for this to happen, you need to know how to squeeze as much value as you can from every piece of content you create and get it into the hands of as many interested readers as possible.

Warning signs: There are a few key reasons why your blog content might be withering on the vine instead of spreading its seeds far and wide:

  • Your aren’t producing evergreen content: Trend- or news-focused content is great for illustrating your brand’s insights; but this type of content typically comes with a built-in expiration date, cutting off your potential for long-tail engagement.
  • You aren’t making it clear you want readers to speak on your brand’s behalf: If you aren’t making it as easy as possible for readers to share your content, you are making it harder for your influence to spread.
  • You publish, then move on: Content marketing isn’t for those lazy, “set-it-and-forget-it” types of businesses. It takes hard work before, during, and after you publish to make sure your content works hard to bring you success.

Potential solutions:

  • Use content curation techniques to refresh older posts: In addition to creating content on evergreen topics that have long-lasting relevance, you can also give your aging content a new lease on life through content curation. Try updating popular posts with more contemporary advice, linking to newer sources of information, including outside perspectives on the topic, or adding fresh visuals – like infographics or videos – to liven up the discussion. Then, republish the post, making sure to acknowledge – and link to – the original.
  • Enable the sharing behaviors you seek: Featuring sharing buttons, requests for comments, and calls to action in your blog posts signal to readers that you would like them to share their brand love, while helping you channel their assistance in the specific directions you desire.
  • Promote your content: Social media and email marketing are both must-have techniques for spreading the word about the content you’ve published. But if you want to extend your blog’s life span and expand its reach beyond your circle of influence, consider supporting your posts with paid promotional techniques like native advertising, promoted posts, and search ads.

Best practice example: The Buffer Blog

buffer social curation experiment

In late 2015, Buffer decided to eschew creating new blog posts for one month in favor of repurposing and refreshing content from its archives. Though some of its efforts were more successful than others, the experiment provided some invaluable insights on how to increase the payoff of every blog post.

Problem 5: You aren’t using your blog to build subscribers

Let’s face it: For your blog to be effective, it needs to help you achieve your business goals, not just boost your brand’s ego and pad your writers’ personal portfolios. Increasing subscriptions is a solid, measurable step in that direction given that the awareness and interest the blog generates now can be nurtured into long-term brand engagement and loyalty over time.

Warning signs: Why aren’t your blog readers signing up for more? Perhaps your content is getting caught up in one of these likely traps:

  • You aren’t directing readers down the path you want them to follow: It took your hard work to bring guests to your door – why would you just let them wander around aimlessly once they’ve arrived?
  • You aren’t making a compelling case for subscription: Sometimes readers need a little convincing to help them decide that your content is worth raising their hand for.
  • Your offerings are all-or-nothing: While a one-size-fits-all subscription might satisfy some enthusiastic brand fans, it could be a big turn-off to casual readers, or those who are already inundated with unread emails in their inboxes.

Potential solutions:

  • Include a call to action that directs site visitors to take the next step: Be clear as to what you want them to do and highlight the benefits they’ll receive in return. But remember, your ask doesn’t need to follow the same format every time. Considerthese alternatives to the traditional text-based end-of-post callout.
  • Offer an incentive to sweeten the deal: Give subscribers access to exclusive content, insider discounts, or other members-only benefits in exchange for their permission to connect with them more directly. You’ll be surprised at how much more willing readers may be to share their personal info when they feel they are getting something tangible in return.
  • Enable subscribers to customize the communications they receive: Just because a reader doesn’t want to hear from you every day, doesn’t mean she might not appreciate the opportunity to receive a monthly message, or hear about specific types of offers. By making your terms of engagement flexible and giving readers the power of choice, you’ll make the experience more comfortable, satisfying, and mutually beneficial.

Best practice example: Copyblogger

copyblogger-member-offers

In Joe’s most recent post on subscription goals, he mentions how Copyblogger Media founder Brian Clark leveraged a strong and loyal base of more than 200,000 targeted email subscribers to transform his humble blog into one of the fastest SaaS companies on the planet. Today, Copyblogger continues to grow that fan base by offering exclusive content resources to members who sign up via email.

Conclusion

Blogging may have low barriers to entry, but that doesn’t mean it’s an effortless path to content marketing effectiveness. Fortunately, a few small blogging hacks and helpers like the ones above can make a big difference in your brand’s potential for attracting, impacting, and activating your audience more successfully.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

To Blog, or Not to Blog?

Just for a second, forget everything you know about the word “blog.” Seriously, wipe your mind clean and pretend that until this very moment, the word “blog” is foreign to you and, for all you know, could be defined as “a weapon used by extra-terrestrials to conquer planet Earth.” (Don’t worry, blogs aren’t that scary.)

Blogs have changed a lot since the first major blogging tool, Blogger, was launched back in 1999 (purchased by Google in 2003). Blogs used to be a place for writers to share opinions and experiences with their audience, plain and simple. While the core of this concept hasn’t changed, the advent of Twitter, WordPress, and countless other platforms have morphed what the blogosphere’s purpose is and how it impacts readers and businesses. I just came across an interesting article about where the world of blogging is today in The Atlantic, http://theatln.tc/1DHZ7Nc, and it’s a long, interesting read if you’re a technology geek like yours truly.

If, however, you aren’t a techno-nerd and you want to cut to the chase to know exactly if and how your company can benefit from running a blog, then this article is a must-read: http://selnd.com/1B5Bu2N. Whether your business currently has a blog being managed internally, has a blog being managed by a third party, or sees no benefit whatsoever from having a blog, this article is concisely written with concrete advice and examples of how to make a blog generate real traffic for a local business. I’ve copied the article below my signature and highlighted the important parts in yellow.

Kevin’s Key Insights:

  1. As Google’s algorithm stands today, your website’s content is the most important factor in gaining visibility online.
  2. Content planning is the key to not letting this project slip through the cracks. Taking a little time now to make next month’s content plan makes it far easier to keep up consistent posting.
  3. Your blog is not just a marketing channel for you to advertise your company; use it to be useful and interesting to your local audience and watch the traffic roll in!

Here is the article.

Make Your Blog A Local Destination & Win At Local Search

Wondering what to do on your blog to help your Local SEO efforts? Columnist Greg Gifford lays out a game plan for local blogging success.

Greg Gifford on March 2, 2015 at 9:28 am

Now that 2015 is in full swing, many business owners are trying to dive into the trenches and do whatever they can to boost their local visibility. So far, the leading question of the year has centered on site content.

Since the Pigeon Update‘s shift toward more “traditional web ranking factors” in determining local search rankings, website content has become more important than ever for local businesses trying to gain visibility in search. In fact, according to Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors, it’s currently the most important piece of the Local SEO puzzle.

Business owners know that content is important, but they keep asking for specifics. So, I figured this month would be a perfect opportunity to share the same strategy we share with our own clients.

You Can’t Just Post For Posting’s Sake

You’ve got a blog, you know you need to post content, you know you need to be unique, and you know you have to be relevant in your local area. That seems to be about as far as most business owners get. Blogging seems to be some insurmountable, time-sucking colossal task — so business owners often shy away.

Blogging isn’t hard! Does it take some time? Yes. But you don’t have to be an expert writer to have an awesome blog. Blogs lend themselves to conversational writing, anyway.

You’ve got to put a plan in place and stick to it. If you’re just randomly posting because you know you need content, you’re doing it wrong. Even if you’re posting several times a week, if you’re only doing it because you know you need content, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re writing a generic post and just shoving your city name in there a few times, you’re doing it wrong.

If you take the time to make a plan, your posts will make sense and have a purpose. Your potential customers and local users will start reading your content because it’s actually useful content. Your traffic will increase, and you’ll get more leads.

Before we talk about post ideas, here’s the blogging plan we share with our clients:

  1. Define Your Audience.It’s important to remember that your audience doesn’t have to be in-market buyers. For auto dealers, the sales cycle is very long, since people typically only buy a car every 4 or 5 years. You have to tailor your posts to your audience if you want to get traction. Think about potential customers, previous customers, local residents, out-of-town visitors – then break up your potential audience into personas that you can target with different posts.
  2. Decide Who’s Writing.Sometimes it’s the business owners, sometimes it’s a manager, and sometimes its employees. Figure out what works with your company’s staff structure, then choose your writers. If you pick specific people, you can hold them accountable, which helps you stick to your schedule. You’re the expert, and you know your company’s voice – so whenever possible, you should write your own posts. In some cases, time constraints might make that impossible (if you’re a one-person show, for example). If you have to outsource your blog posts, make sure you’re using a reputable copywriting company that’s providing original, well-written content.
  3. Decide What You’re Going To Share.Remember that “content” doesn’t have to be text. Now that you know who your audience is and who’ll be creating the content, decide what types of content you want to share. Besides standard written posts, you can share photos, videos, infographics, slide presentations, or surveys. Play to your strengths and the interests of your audience.
  4. Set A Calendar & Stick To It.This is the step that most people stumble on. You’ve got to post on a regular basis if you want to be successful. You don’t have to know exact subjects to plan your posting calendar out far in advance – as long as you know a post is due on a certain date, it helps keep everyone accountable and on schedule. At a minimum, you should plan your posts a month ahead of time, but going 6 months or even a year ahead will make your life easier and increase your chances of success.

Need evidence that this approach works? Check out the results below, from my own company’s blog.

I put my money where my mouth is back in 2011 and committed to posting at least one blog post a week about automotive digital marketing.

Within a year, traffic to our blog doubled — and today, we’re consistently in the 7,000 to 8,000 visitor range. That’s more than ten times our original traffic!

Okay, So What The Heck Do We Actually Post?

Here’s where most business owners get hung up. They know they need to plan, and they know they need to post regularly, but they struggle with ideas for potential posts. The “my business is boring” excuse usually comes into play at this point.

Luckily, we’re blogging to build local relevance, so that means there are tons of options for post ideas regardless of business vertical. At the recent LocalUp conference in Seattle, Mike Ramsey said it best: “Local content is not about being unique, it’s about being local and useful.”

You don’t have to fill your blog with unique posts about plumbing… or being a locksmith… or handling bankruptcy cases. If your blog is all about yourself, it’s boring, and you’ll run out of things to say. Make your blog a local destination, and you’ll have an endless supply of content ideas that also help build local relevancy.

Instead of thinking of your blog as another marketing channel that needs to be all about your business, try to create a really awesome locally-oriented blog that people in your area will keep reading because it’s useful and truly interesting.

Here’s the list of 10 local blog post ideas we share with our clients:

  1. Community News/Local News. Every city has news. Share the news, or share your opinions on local news. Did your high school put in a $60 million football stadium? Write about it — I promise people will read….
  2. Local Events.Every city has events. Whether it’s a local parade, or a celebration downtown, or a concert at the city park, there’s an endless supply of local events you can write about.
  3. Sponsorships Or Charities.Most businesses sponsor events (would golf tournaments exist otherwise?). Share information about the events you’re sponsoring. If you support a charity, especially a local one, let your readers know about it.
  4. Event Guides.Share useful information about big local events. For example, is there a 5k race, or even a yearly marathon? Put together a list of restaurants to head to after the race, places to stand on the race route, hotels to stay in over the weekend and so on. Create a PDF and share it.
  5. Local Resource Directory. Supporting local businesses is a huge movement, and you can gain a lot of traction by sharing your own list of locally owned businesses that you support. You’re not creating a link exchange, you’re simply sharing a list of the other businesses that you recommend to local residents.
  6. Review Local Businesses.Along those same lines, write up reviews about the local businesses you support, or even the ones you frequent. Local residents will appreciate your insights, and as a bonus, it’s likely that the business will return the favor and write a review about your business.
  7. Interview Local Figures.Do you know the mayor? Someone on city council? The high school football coach? Take advantage of your friendships and professional connections and interview figures of local interest. Not only is it useful, interesting local content, it’s “ego bait” – the person you interview will very likely share your post with all of your connections, helping to broaden your reach.
  8. Top 5 Lists.Talk about your favorite burger joints, your favorite steak restaurants, your favorite stores. People love to read top 5 and top 10 lists, and you can use any of the above suggestions to help come up with ideas for your lists. They’re incredibly easy to write and the built-in popularity of list posts helps broaden your reach.
  9. If local customers are asking questions, you have a built in guide for local blog content. If it’s a lengthy answer, you can turn it into an entire post. If you have multiple locations or serve multiple areas, you can even compare questions from different locations. If you’re writing about what your customers are asking about, you already know it’s something they’ll want to read.
  10. Aggregated Content.Many times, aggregating and sharing local content can be incredibly successful. Share the content that local news sites or other businesses are creating, and you’ll be sharing information that your users will find useful too.

Piggyback off of this list and come up with your own ideas that work for your audience. Follow a set plan and share useful local content on a regular basis, and you’ll build your site’s local relevancy and boost your site’s visibility.