But as they’ve become standard practice, some brands are just blogging for the sake of it, without giving enough thought to the content they’re posting and the wider purpose.
This tends to lead to six common mistakes, spread over everything from planning to penning to promoting your content. The good news is they’re fairly easy to fix; here’s how you can improve your blog and make sure it’s pulling its weight.
Have a strategy
As with all your marketing efforts, you need to be strategic. Your strategy is going to guide everything from the type and style of posts to your promotional plans. It’s also going to make sure you’re posting consistently, ’cause intermittent bouts of activity and idleness are just going to drive your readers away. First, figure out your audiences. Who are they and what do they want? A good understanding of your readership is the foundation of a successful blog, and it’s going to underpin the content you create (as you’ll soon see).
Next you need to think about the point of your blog. Without a purpose, your blog’s going to drift along aimlessly. What are you trying to achieve? Set out some overall objectives, and then make sure all your posts are working towards them. If you need a bit of helping picking your objectives, have a read of our post Four great brand blogs, in which we look at (yup, you guessed it) four great brand blogs to see why they work. Though they’re wildly different in terms of audience, content and objectives, they all have one thing in common: each is driven by an overarching strategy; that’s why they’re successful.
Now that you’ve got your strategy, we can move onto the execution. The first rule is that your blog posts should actually be of value to your audience, otherwise no one will read them. The internet is bursting with content – way more than we need – so don’t fill it with more fluff. You’ve already thought about your readership in the strategy. Now you need to give it content that interests, entertains, informs or teaches them in some way. For example, with our blog we try to give our audience (mainly marketing managers, particularly existing and prospective clients) tips, advice and insights that they can use in their day-to-day work – such as in this post.
Try to avoid talking about yourself too much, as well. Your blog shouldn’t be about selling or describing your products or services – that’s what your product and services pages are for. Instead, it should offer informative, entertaining content based on the space where your brand and your audience overlap. A useful (and free) tool for generating blog post ideas is Answer the Public. Simply type in a keyword, search query or topic and click ‘Get Questions’. It’ll then spit out a load of common searches containing your keyword. Click on one of these and it’ll take you to the Google results page, where you can see the number of results the search term generates, and thus judge its competitiveness.
Write good writing
Blog writing is often an afterthought, fobbed off on junior members of staff or whoever’s free. The assumption is that writing’s easy: almost everyone can write, to some extent, so what’s so hard about creating a blog post? Well, yes, most people can write, but writing and writing well are two very different things. If your blog post isn’t written in an engaging way, people won’t read it. As we mentioned in the previous point, there’s plenty of content on the internet, so readers can afford to be discerning.
If you write well, you make your content readable, sharable and effective. In other words, your audience will enjoy reading it, they’ll be more likely to tell their friends or tweet about it, and it will actually achieve its aims. You’ll also strengthen SEO, which we’ll talk about later. Hiring a pro will mean significantly better copy and a more effective blog, but of course it’s often expedient to produce content in-house. If you’re doing the latter, hand the blog over to a competent writer. Or go a step further by hiring a copywriter full-time. And always make sure you proof-read.
Optimise for search
There’s no point blogging if no one reads it, so you need to do at least the basic level of optimisation to make it discoverable. Think about the keywords you want to rank for – these should be directly related to your content – and make sure they’re in the title and the post, along with contextual keywords in the body copy. Now, contrary to the opinions of some, optimising for search can be done without sacrificing style. Google wants to give its users relevant, high-quality content, and has done for some time; the days of keyword cramming are long gone. For the best up-to-date SEO tactics, including quality content and contextual keywords, have a read of our post entitled seven tips for SEO in 2018.
Promote it properly
So, you’ve written a great blog article, optimised it for search and posted it on your social channels. Now you can just sit back and wait for the traffic to come, right? Well, no. Promoting your content is as important as writing it in the first place. Posting it on social media is a good start, but you’ve got to go further than that.
First, you want to lay out a promotional schedule, determining how many times you’ll post your content and on which social channels. One or two tweets isn’t enough: your audience is active at different times on different days, and social media moves so fast that most will miss your post if you don’t share it regularly. You’ll want to find your own promotional sweet spot. For instance, the more blog posts you publish, the more frequently you’ll push them on social media. You’ll also share a post less often the older it gets; we usually stop sharing our articles once they’re a year old (unless they gain a new relevance or we update them with fresh stats, copy and imagery).
The rest of it comes from running your schedule and tweaking it based on the results. Step one is to put together a social media planner, listing the dates your blog articles are due and when you’ll post them on the channels you’re using.
Build your community
A second social media tactic is to cultivate engagement by actively seeking out and following those who are likely to enjoy and share your content. Whenever someone likes, comments on or retweets/shares a post of yours, check out their profile and make a judgement call on whether they’d be a useful person to follow.
You also want to interact with influencers in your industry who are publishing similar content to yours and those who are engaging with those posts. Comment on, like and share other people’s posts, and always reply to comments on yours. Of course, you still need to be selective about the accounts you follow, what you share and how you respond to positive and negative feedback, so it’s worth having a social media strategy in place to cover these things.
Splash some cash
Another option to consider is paid promotion. If you’ve got a blog post that’s performing particularly well on social media, it may be worth spending a couple of quid to amplify its reach. There’s also pay-per-click advertising, such as Google Ads, where you can bid for poll position on your relevant search terms. Or you might want to experiment with native advertising, getting your blog post appearing on the sites your audience is visiting.
You can plan your promotional tactics, including the social schedule, back when you’re working up your strategy. And remember to tweak it as you go, depending on how your content is received, which channels are working best and how much traffic you’re generating.
Turn readers into customers
Now that you’re driving all this traffic to your blog, what next? Well, hopefully some of them will convert right away. That’s why you want to conclude the text with a strong call to action, relevant to the post. For instance, if you’re a family hotel with a blog post on the top summer activities in your area, you might want to link through to a special summer break. If a reader’s ready to buy, make it easy for them. A more likely scenario is that you’ll interest the reader enough that they want to come back or know more about you, but aren’t quite ready to reach for their purse. In this instance, you want to make sure you’re giving them another option, namely to sign up to your newsletter. Just like your main call to action, make sure your newsletter sign-up is somewhere the reader will see it.
Which reminds me: if you want more blog posts like this, sign up to our monthly newsletter and we’ll send them straight to you. Go on, it only takes two ticks.
If you’ve got the tracking pixel installed on your site, you could run a Facebook Ad targeting people who’ve visited your blog but not converted, asking them to subscribe to your newsletter. Sometimes just a gentle nudge is all a reader needs. If you plan to use Facebook for this, or for promoting your content, check out our tips for making your Facebook ads successful.