What To Do, What Not To Do, How To Keep An Audience And How To Drive Leads
Marketers who prioritize blogging efforts are 13 times more likely to see positive return on investment (ROI), according to HubSpot.
But you have to strike a balance between the obvious challenges and getting your story out in an effective way. Some companies have gone way over the top.
You might not know it, but your company is in the same precarious situation. You can’t ignore the obvious, but you also can’t lean into it too deeply. You don’t want to turn off your audience, but you don’t want them to think you’re oblivious either.
What’s a good marketer to do when it comes to blogging?
What’s Your Plan?
You know we’re all about strategy before tactics, so our first move is to plan out a month of blog articles. I typically start with the headlines and subheads. I keep a running list of blog ideas and then pull from them to create the 30-day plan.
This gives you a high-level perspective and should help you balance how much COVID-19 content you’re publishing, how much thought leadership you’re publishing and how much tactical advice you’re planning to put out.
For example, we sometimes publish too much academic or thought leadership content and not enough blocking and tackling content. We need a balance there, too. Your blog might have the same challenges.
How do we know about this? By analyzing the view and conversion data for every blog. The trends tend to present themselves in an obvious way. If we publish too many academic articles, the views start to drop.
This also provides insight into what I call topic threads. Ideas that are gaining views and conversions can be expanded on and continued in upcoming articles.
The 30-day perspective lets you focus on what keywords, keyword phrases or questions you’re working on ranking for in Google. It’s also going to show you what pages on your website you’ll be promoting and what offers come along with those page promotions.
All of this gives you a 30,000-foot view of your blogging strategy for the month and allows you to balance it out accordingly.
Get Some Data
It’s easy to get sucked into content-driven blog ideas, but you really want to use a data-driven blog ideation process. This means you review the stats and see what articles are getting views and, more importantly, what articles are driving leads or sales opportunities.
Your readers are signaling what content themes they like the most and what they want to read about on your blog. You should always be tuned into this data and use it to set your editorial calendar, like we mentioned above.
One caveat to that statement: Sometimes you should write about what you want, instead of what your readers want. I say this with all respect to the readers, but if you only give them what they want to view, you’ll quickly find your blog to be very narrow.
One of your goals as a blog author is to expose your audiences to new ideas. It’s your role to challenge people to think differently. Blogs should be a repository for your company’s thought leadership, and sometimes that means introducing readers to ideas they never considered.
Consider A Variety Of Media
Blogs are no longer just written articles. Today they include multimedia, and you need to start looking for ways to add additional media to your blog, too.
Video is one of the obvious additions that should be in your short-term plans. Some blogs have gone entirely video, and vlogging is popping up everywhere.
You could make a legitimate argument that some of the video content you’re now watching on social media like LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube is actually blog content turned into short videos.
I think people still prefer to read longer articles that include short video interludes to help tell the story. Your readers’ consumption habits should drive your video-to-written-content balance.
You might consider adding more graphs and visual elements in your blog. People get bored easily, and it’s your job to not only keep the content fresh but also keep the content experience fresh.
This does make it harder to create blogs. Now you need a designer, or you need to spend time doing some design work to enhance the visual elements in the blog. But your payoff is more views, more conversions and more leads.
Consider The Length Of Your Blog Articles
When blogging started, the rule was to write 800 to 1,000 words. As blogging exploded, that wasn’t enough to get Google’s attention, and longer-form 3,000-word blog articles started to emerge.
These longer-form articles did keep people on the page longer, provide more links to click on and allow people to tell a more quality-oriented story in each article.
All of these additions aligned with Google’s algorithm changes. Clicks signaled value, time on page signaled value and page views during a visit signaled value, so it all makes sense.
I’m going to encourage you to test and track. Try longer articles, but only continue creating longer articles if your audience is engaging with those types of articles. A lot of people enjoy the short form of blog articles because they get what they want in a short amount of time.
This is why some blogs have time-to-read guidance before each article (for example: This article is a 10-minute read). This helps readers know whether they want to invest the time or not before they get started.
If your readers are signaling that they like longer articles, you should lean into that data and work harder to create longer articles, regardless of whether Google approves or not.
Consider The Design Of Your Blog
When was the last time you upgraded your blog design? It’s probably been too long. I know it’s been too long for us, and we have a new blog design underway. Thank you for putting up with this older design and layout for the past year or so. Your patience will be rewarded.
When it comes to design, here are the elements you want to consider:
Your Header: It’s probably the first thing people see when they arrive on your blog, and it’s important to make sure this tells your story and positions the content in your blog.
User-Friendly Navigation: This is the key to your readers’ experience on your site. It’s also how you’ll move a visitor from one article to the next quickly and easily. Try to keep the categories to a minimum to limit a visitor’s choices.
Links Inside Articles: You should, as a best practice, include links in your blog articles to other articles. This will help increase visitors’ time on your site and boost search rankings for your articles.
A Search Box: If your blog has many articles, or if you’ve been blogging for a number of years, consider giving your visitors a search feature that allows them to quickly and easily find articles on the subject of their choice.
Sidebar: It’s a good practice to use a sidebar on the right side of the page to highlight content you want to draw special attention to while readers spend time on your blog. This also helps keep people on the site, and this content should be personalized based on their consumption preferences or previous behaviors.
You can include other blog elements in the sidebar, like author bios (although I prefer these at the bottom) or an email subscription box.
Snippets: Most people want to find blog content quickly and don’t want to search around. Showing snippets on the blog homepage helps visitors quickly choose content that interests them. Showing a sentence or two for each post with a call-to-action such as “continue reading” or “read more” does the trick perfectly.
Looking for some blog design inspiration? Here are a few well-designed blogs that you can use to get ideas for your blog redesign project:
Zenefits, a health care benefits technology company: https://www.zenefits.com/company-blog/
Intercom, an email marketing firm: https://www.intercom.com/blog/global-customer-support/
Drift, the creator of conversational marketing and a chat software tool: https://www.drift.com/blog/
Data And The Performance Of Your Blog
We talked a bit about knowing how well your blog is doing and focused primarily on the number of views and conversions for a particular blog article.
But a number of other metrics are equally important when it comes to knowing if your blogging efforts are paying off.
One important metric to monitor is the number of new blog subscribers on a monthly basis. This number should be going up each month. While it’s great to blog to drive your Google rankings, blogging allows you to stay in touch with your prospects, customers and other stakeholders in the most direct way.
For example, if you do a bi-monthly email, that is two touches for your entire database. But if you blog every business day or even twice a week, that is eight to 20 additional touches with thought leadership, content offers and links back to your website.
That’s eight to 20 more opportunities to drive leads, and it’s why you need to be actively working to push up blog subscribers. Sales reps should mention it to prospects, actively promote it in email, use social to drive people to the blog and prominently feature blog sign-up boxes.
Finally, besides watching views for specific articles, look at blog views in their entirety. Dashboards like the one illustrated below are important for keeping regular tabs on the performance of your blogging efforts, and they are very easy to set up in marketing automation tools like HubSpot.
Lately blogging has been a bit overshadowed by video, chat, podcasting and pillar pages. But it continues to be a very big driver of visitors and leads when executed correctly.
In addition, the extra touches, the ability for sales to leverage the content and its continued power to drive rankings for keywords should keep blogging at the top of your marketing to-do list.
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