It might be hard to believe, but the word ‘blog’ has now been with us for close to 20 years. The superfluous abbreviation was first offered as a jokingly truncated form of ‘web blog’ back in the late 1990s and has somehow managed to become the de facto term for a certain breed of online writing over the years.
The concept of the blog has evolved over the last two decades to become an essential part of the marketing mix, and any website worth its salt will feature a blog section.
In particular, a regularly updated, quality blog is a powerful tool for attracting new business. Research has found that, on average, companies that maintain blogs create 67% more leads per month than those without. B2B buyers read between 3-5 blog posts or other content pieces online before talking to a salesperson.
However, there is more to running a successful blog than simply flinging content online and hoping for the best.
1) Know your audience
Before putting finger to keyboard, it’s important to have a firm picture of your ideal reader and what you want them to get out of the piece. Having a distinct audience in mind from the outset will ensure the language, tone and structure of the blog are geared towards the right people.
2) Size matters
The length of a blog post has a big impact on how successful the content will be at attracting and keeping a reader’s attention. Blogs have actually gotten longer in recent years, and research has found that posts of over a thousand words tend to be more influential on search rankings. On the other hand, most people spend an average of 37 seconds reading a blog before another of the internet’s infinite bright lights distracts them, so there is a lot of value in being succinct and punchy too. For very long pieces, it may be worth breaking the content up into a series of posts.
3) Including key words
Mixing in key words that are essential to the company’s messaging is a useful way of boosting your Google ranking, so any copy should be planned around them. However, SEO terms need to be balanced against the overall quality and readability of the piece. There is little point in attracting a reader to your blog with canny SEO if the piece itself is an unreadable mass of key words and jargon. Google is also continually improving its ability to identify content that has been written to take advantage of its system, so sites risk being blacklisted if they try and game the SEO system.
4) Forget your ABCs
Many salespeople subscribe to the mantra of Always Be Closing (ABC), but while all your content should be providing some value to the business, it doesn’t always have to be a hard sell focused on closing a sale. Although they make a good platform for discussing products and services, blogs should be distinct from other sales and marketing copy on the site. They can also be used to provide advice, or discuss interesting trends and ideas in your industry, or simply serve as an outlet for more fun and personal items about your business culture and personality.
5) Stick to a schedule
A consistent series of blog posts is a great way of getting customers, prospects, and other key influencers to return to your site on a regular basis. Blogs that go months between posts or update very erratically will fail to gain momentum and won’t provide any incentive for a reader to come back later. Finding the time to write a blog can be tricky, especially if it’s just an extra task for staff with other priorities. Having a schedule can be very helpful here, while working with a content specialist can ensure a regular pipeline of content.
6) Sharing is caring
While blogs are great for SEO, you shouldn’t rely on a lucky search to bring in new readers. Blogs are ideal content for social media, and every new post should be shared multiple times on various platforms to encourage visitors and engagement.
7) Everyone likes a list
The ‘listicle’ has established itself as one of the most popular formats for blogs, with the piece being broken down into several numbered sections – let’s say seven. This ensures that even those readers with a 37-second attention span can still absorb some useful thoughts. Setting out the number of points in the headline can also help set expectations on if it should be a quick read or something to save for later.