Rather than reaching out directly to consumers via traditional outbound marketing ways (think cold calling and direct mail), the goal of inbound marketing is to get your intended audience to come to you instead. What's the most effective way to do this? Content marketing. Content Marketing is the creation and sharing of content to a targeted audience, with the goal of establishing oneself (individual or organization) as an expert within the field. What's the most effective way to utilize content marketing? Blogging.
What is a blog?
In short, a blog is a web page made up of short or long, frequently updated posts that are arranged somewhat like a journal would be. The boom of weblogs occurred around 1999, and since then, the number of blogs on the Internet has exploded from just a few thousand to millions. Despite the millions of blogs out there, some with unbelievable success stories, there are still many businesses that are apprehensive to jump on the blog bandwagon.
When done the right way, the benefits of blogging are priceless for your business. There are so many reasons to blog. Blogs in a way are just another form of social media. Through sharing, commenting and utilizing strategic collaborations and partnerships, blogs provide the basis for building a strong, targeted community. You have the ability to tell your brand's story, offer more insight into your philosophy, employees and ideas and let your customers know why you're in business and how you can and want to help them.
Aside from the community-building aspect, blogs also serve to support many other marketing efforts and fuel the sales cycle. Specifically, blogs can drastically boost SEO and therefore improve your organic reach. When developing your content strategy, focus each article on specific keywords or phrases and link to internal and external content. Blogs can help to drive sales. Curate blog posts surrounding the need for your service or products and then link back to your website. Blogs are very cost-effective marketing investments, as every post you publish is a long-term stride towards building brand awareness and promoting your expertise.
Simply writing and publishing a blog post likely won't get you much activity, however. You need to actually market your blog posts if you want to get traffic. This lesson should serve as a guide towards doing so. Now that you're convinced, here's some helpful advice to help steer your blogging journey.
Determine your purpose and your audience
A great blog's core is its content, but to be successful a blog also needs a strong audience. Focus on your target audience, as they will be more likely to do your marketing for you (share your content, leave praise, etc.). Those who aren't in your target audience may listen and pay attention every now and then, but they certainly won't promote you like "connected" fans will.
Establish short and long term goals
Establish your own goals through establishing a foundation of what your reader's goals likely are. Your goals should work cohesively together, and every short-term goal that you have should also support one of your long-term goals. Once these are established, you can break them down further into monthly, weekly and even daily goals when setting up your content calendar. Before you sit down to write a post, ask yourself how each particular piece will benefit your audience and how it will make an impact on your long-term mission. Figure out how each piece fits into the greater picture and define its purpose before you begin writing.
Create a strong brand voice and establish your expertise
When it comes to blogging, establishing a strong brand image is necessary in order to stand out amongst the crowd. Should your voice be formal and business-like or more conversational? A blog offers the perfect opportunity to showcase your talents and expertise in your niche. Great blogs typically serve to answer questions. Let your writings be an attempt to answer those posed within your industry and by your customer.
Your company blog has the potential to be the best salesperson you have. How? It removes the pressure of being sold to for the consumer and instead gives them enough information to make the right decision at the right time. There are many types of blog posts that can hold some sort of value to your readers. It's up to you to determine what best fits your company, your industry and target audience. Know, however, that simply being valuable won't necessarily make your post marketable.
Focus on content integrity
Decide right now to blog with integrity. Nothing destroys a blog's credibility faster than a title that misleads readers to a sales-pitchy post. Consumers are savvy and can separate strong data from spam. Each piece of content that you publish should aim to achieve at least one of the following: to inform, to entertain, or to educate. It may be possible to pull off all three, but for most, blogs, one should suffice. If you can't do something well, it's not worth doing. This includes blogging. Blog with integrity, be truthful and look to actually serve your audience. Quality content speaks for itself.
Don't be afraid to be a bit controversial and share a perspective that not everyone might agree with. After all, if you try to appeal to everyone you'll likely appeal to no one. If you never take a stand or make a point, then you're simply going to have a blog that looks like every other blog in your industry. Be bold, take risks and evoke emotions.
Publish frequently and consistently
Consistent posting is key to blog success for a number of reasons:
Consistent posting trains readers to expect something and builds an audience
Consistent posting contributes to higher traffic and SEO benefitsInterested in learning more? Why not take an online class in Social Media Marketing?
Blogging frequently will allow you to dominate a content niche
Committing to a schedule will allow you to become a better blogger through practice
Similar to social media platforms, there is no right answer when it comes to post frequency. Consider the following when determining your posting frequency:
Your business needs and goals
The resources and budget you have available to produce content
Your customer needs, wants and expectations
The competitiveness of your industry
Reply to comments
Remember that blogs are social, so visitors will likely ask questions or leave their opinions. This is what you should strive for. When this does happen, provide feedback, share your thoughts on their remarks or interact with them in some way. This is super important. Why? Unacknowledged engagement (especially to those who frequently interact with blogs) can often be seen as a form of rudeness. Think about it. How do you feel when you dish out a compliment or text someone and get no response back? With this in mind, the importance of replying to comments makes so much sense. It shows that you're listening, and it closes the conversational loop. It builds the community and it builds brand affinity.
As your blog grows, it may become simply impossible to respond to every single interaction (should you not have the resources to hire someone for the job). When and if your blog gets to this point, comment simply when it makes sense. Replying to comments is important, but don't let other areas of business suffer due to it taking up too much of your time. Find a happy balance.
Don't dismiss email
Once you've built up a book of contacts that seem to have an interest in your business, it only makes sense to utilize an email newsletter to keep those contacts engaged via your blog. A newsletter is a way of allowing readers to opt in to being reminded to come back to your blog and notify them when new articles are published. Newsletters also help to further build a sense of community. How? By signing up for something such as a newsletter, that reader is showing some level of commitment. They're investing something into your blog and likely to feel like participants. Treat them as such. Celebrate milestones with them and help to let them know that they're a part of something.
Increase your organic traffic
Organic search will always remain an important way to generate traffic, and is an essential part of blog marketing. To ensure high search engine rankings, write high quality articles that focus on key words or phrases. Additionally, create content that is most likely to be shared and linked to by your target audience and influencers within your niche. Links are a major part of organic search algorithms, so they will definitely be sure to benefit your blog.
Promote your blog through social media networks
Of course you must invest into your blog for it to become successful. If you don't promote your content you're going to be missing out on huge opportunities to capture your customer or potential customer's attention- no matter how great your message may be. Utilize the social media platforms that you're on to help carry your voice further. The social media sites that tend to send the most outbound traffic include:
Be strategic in how you promote by determining which platform is best suited for the post at hand. For example, if your blog post is more business focused and geared toward professional readers you'll likely receive better traffic from LinkedIn and Google+. If your target reader is more visual, on the other hand, it might make more sense to focus on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Once you start testing different methods you'll be able to analyze and determine if your target reader is visiting your blog and which efforts are bringing in the largest return on investment.
Promote your blog through paid advertising
Marketing your blog on social media is a fantastic start, but it's also great to consider paid advertising. Such efforts offer huge potential to get your blog and brand name out to those it wouldn't otherwise reach. Growing your blog organically will likely take a lot of time to build a community, but with paid advertising, you have the opportunity to pay for immediate traffic.
Repost and repurpose blog content
Re-posting blog content will allow you to fully get the most from each piece of content you produce. This can be especially true for content that isn't an immediate hit or content that doesn't produce results across all social media platforms. Sometimes the right timing can make all the difference.
Repurposing your content can help to extend the reach of your blog and identify further potential opportunities. What we mean by this is to consider turning original content into new mediums such as videos, webinars, infographics and slidedecks. Some readers just simply prefer more visual or audible content rather than the traditional text-based blog post and this will also likely open up new doors and make it easier for others to share.
Reach out to influencers and build relations
It's been proven that we as consumers often trust family, friends and colleagues way more than we do marketing and advertising efforts. Marketing professionals who understand this devote time and resources to building real relationships with the people that matter to their business. Investing in influencer content in the form of guest blogs is a great way to establish credibility to your overall message, as well as open the door for further collaborations.
To increase the chances that an industry influencer will agree to contribute to your blog, it's a good idea to offer something that will benefit them as well (cross –promotion) or limit the amount of work they'll have to do. For example, Q&A sessions with experts are a great way to create content without the expert having to actually write it. Or, share an early version of your content before your main promotion of it, and give them the opportunity to provide a testimonial or comment from them.
Track your results
As with any other marketing initiative, you must track your results with blogging and blogging marketing. As mentioned before, if used properly, a blog should support your social media efforts, SEO and sales processes, and also act as a hub for the rest of your content marketing. Aside from the immediate measures that can be tracked such as page visits and social media shares, track your comments. This is a better indicator of engagement and therefore your ultimate goal in mind.
Similar to social media, a blog creates a pathway for businesses to connect and engage with an audience like never before. With blogging you have the ability to create a great a community, gain insightful feedback and teach your target audience about the things that matter to them.
In short, blogs:
Drive traffic to your website
Increase your SEO
Position your brand as an industry leader
Help you develop better customer relationships
Can be both fresh and lasting content