Blogging is so ubiquitous now that it would be easy to think that everyone is doing it, and – more importantly – everyone knows how to do it. Take a look around a few business blogs, however, and it soon becomes apparent that some businesses aren’t making the most of their own publishing streams.
Before moving to Intelligent Conversation, I worked for two years as Blogs Manager for a publishing company. In that time we grew their blogs network from 15,000 visitors a month to 50,000. The key principles we applied there to help us achieve that growth are equally applicable to any business. So here are my top tips:
- Write for your audience, not for you
People read blogs in their spare time, so they want to read something that interests them, something that challenges their thinking, something they can learn from.
If your blog becomes chock full of marketing-style announcements about your latest initiatives, you’re going to lose your readers. You need to think about what your audience is going to be interested in reading, ahead of what you want to tell them.
Do some research; find out what the people you’re trying to reach want to know about – you’re bound to have some friendly contacts who can give you an insight and keeping track of what people are saying on social channels can help too.
- Keep it personal
Blogs were created as online diaries and they’re still seen as a place where you can have a more conversational relationship with your customers. Put your own personality and opinions into your posts. Readers like to feel they’re hearing from a person, rather than an organization.
- Show don’t tell
You want your readers to know how fantastic your business is and how knowledgeable your staff are, but – harking back to the first tip – if you simply write exactly that in a blog, your readers are likely to lose interest. You need to show people you’re good at what you do, rather than tell them.
For example, say an accountancy firm are launching a new customer service initiative. They could simply write an announcement (boring) or they could write a thought leadership piece, for example: 5 questions you should always ask your accountant.
A piece like that shows they’re considerate of customer needs – they know people might not be familiar with the ins and outs of dealing with an accountant and are providing helpful information which their readers can use. It also gives them a chance to show they know their stuff, by suggesting sensible questions with clear reasons about why you should ask them. And if their customer service initiative is mentioned along the way, all the better.
- Don’t get too technical and lose the acronyms
Perhaps your business is quite technical, or uses a lot of specialist language; even if your readers are experts in your subject, they generally won’t complain if you make something easier for them to read. Try to minimize the number of acronyms and other jargon that so easily creep into business language – it will make posts look better, as well as read better.
- Write about things people are already talking about
Look out for hot topics in your business area and in the wider news agenda. There could also be events or awareness days that you could link your work to. If you can tie what you do into something people are already talking about, then half the battle is won – they will be interested – and all you’ll need to do is make sure you get your content out there.
- Get other people to write for you
Guest bloggers (both regular and one-off) can be a brilliant way to diversify your blog. Sometimes guest bloggers are able to talk you up in a way that you can’t do yourself.
Referring back to the accountancy example, why not ask a client to write a piece such as ‘6 things I wish I’d known earlier about my accounts’, where they can then big up their accountant and what they’ve shown them. (Remember, ghost writing is always an option if your clients are busy).
Guest bloggers are also great because they will usually spread the word to their contacts, who are almost always the people you’re trying to reach.
- Formatting does matter
Writing for online platforms is different to writing a press release or an article for print. People skim the content, so you need to format your writing in a way that makes it easy for them to look at and enjoy. Keep paragraphs short, use engaging images, insert hyperlinks to helpful articles or sites and use sub-headings to help them find the information they want.
- Quality is key, but quantity is also important
If you publish lots of content, but it’s all bad content, that’s not going to help your case. That said, quantity does matter. To keep people engaged with a blog, you need to publish content regularly. The more you publish, the more opportunities you have to engage people with what you’re doing.
It’s always handy to have some posts ‘in reserve’ that can be published whenever there’s a quiet stretch.
- Promote, promote, promote
Always be on the lookout for ways to promote your content. Traditional social media posts are the obvious choice, but look out for other avenues. Why not consider republishing your post on LinkedIn Pulse or Medium for example. Or developing a relationship with an industry publication to find your content an external home; building your audience reach and profile at the same time.
It goes without saying that you tie your blog posts in with the rest of your marketing and communications work – have a ‘latest posts’ feed on your homepage, include blog posts in your email marketing and so on.
- Measure your success
My biggest tip of all is to keep testing what works. Make sure you’re monitoring how your content performs – what’s most popular on what channels, which posts are gaining the most engagement, whether traffic is on the up. If something’s working well, do it more and if it isn’t, stop doing it. Simple.