Blogging is no longer an online diary. It’s big business, and your most effective marketing tool. The best blogs command the same respect as the oldest print newspapers, and some of the world’s largest, most successful companies treat their blogs as key parts of their online marketing strategies.
Want a slice of the pie?
It’s not easy -- nothing worthwhile ever is. By playing to your strengths as an expert in your field, you can use your blog as a powerful marketing tool to generate quality leads, create strong relationships with potential customers and build your reputation within your chosen industry.
Here are 14 key tips to give you the best possible chance of success.
1. Know your customers
No topic will be interesting to everyone. Focus your efforts on the people who matter to your business -- existing and potential customers.
Who are they? What are they interested in? What kind of questions do your customers frequently ask, and what search terms might they use when seeking an answer to a problem?
Related: Your Brand Is About the Feels
The general public probably won’t care about what you write, but the people you deal with on a regular basis will -- so make sure you tailor your content to their needs and preferences.
2. Do your research
Take a look at what your competitors are doing, and pay extra attention if they seem to be doing it well. What are they writing about, how often are they doing it and how are they presenting their work?
Every business checks up on the products or services their rivals are offering, so there’s nothing shady about taking a look and drawing inspiration from their blogs to make improvements to your own.
3. Be human
A blog is not a press release, a letter to the bank, a financial statement, an awkward discussion with a potential father-in-law; it’s a personal and informal message from you to your customers. So be yourself -- the human, not the business. Sit back, relax and let your own personality out in your writing.
You’ll have a better chance of building relationships with your readers if you come across as the person behind the business, rather than the business itself.
4. Be accessible and show you care
Ensure readers can comment and provide feedback on what you write, and engage with respondents whenever you can. Remember: your blog should be a discussion, not a one-sided lecture.
A comment shows the reader cares about what you’ve written. Replying to a comment takes no time at all, and every reader will appreciate that you’ve gone out of your way to listen to and respond to what they have said.
Engaging someone in a two-sided conversation forms a connection between you and them -- and it could be the start of the most profitable business relationship you’ll ever have.
5. Produce regular content
You’ll have the best chance of striking up a relationship with regular readers, but you won’t build a regular readership unless you provide them with a steady stream of fresh content.
Organize your ideas and plan in advance what you’re going to be publishing, and when. It’s up to you how often you update your blog, but if you start off writing a new post once or twice a week, make sure you stick, more or less, to that frequency.
An up-to-date blog tells potential customers you’re committed and very much in business; an abandoned or sporadically updated one does the opposite.
6. Ensure your blog looks good on all platforms
The last five years have seen an explosion in the use of mobile devices to access online content. Where once a business could focus on Windows-based desktop users and large screens, they must now also cater to visitors on small-screen tablets and smartphones.
Choose a responsive blog layout. It will adapt to the device being used by the reader and ensure your blog is easy to view for all visitors -- whatever they are using to access it.
7. Keep it simple
Unless you provide a very specialized service aimed only at professionals, avoid industry jargon and use easily understandable, clear language in your blog.
Never use a long, complex word when a short, simple one will do, and never say in 15 words what could be said in five.
8. Keep it scannable
Break up your text with plenty of white space. Text walls can be intimidating or off-putting, so aim for no more than two -- three sentences per paragraph.
9. Don’t advertise
No one likes online ads. If a visitor stumbles upon your blog to find a 500-word puff piece extolling the virtues of a product or service you are selling, they’re not going to hang around.
Sales and new customers are the ultimate aim of the blog, but don’t force the issue. If a passing mention of something you do fits into what you’re writing, don’t go out of your way to avoid it -- but ensure your content, not your advertising, is what the reader notices.
10. Build up your network
Whatever market niche your business occupies, it’s not an isolated island bobbing around in the middle of the South Pacific. It’s part of a ready-made network.
There will be other businesses out there in related industries, writing their own blogs. They’re not direct competitors, but you probably have something in common -- a type of customer.
Expand your network by getting to know the authors on related blogs. Comment on their work, share it if you like it, maybe link to their blog in your own. There are no guarantees they’ll return the favor, but you’re far more likely to gain a recommendation and pick up some new readers from a blogger you know.
11. Allow easy sharing
Promoting a blog is hard work, even with the assistance of friends and family -- so enlist your readers to lend a hand. Allowing visitors to quickly and easily share an interesting blog post with friends on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will significantly increase your potential reach.
Simple sharing icons can be added to any blog to allow readers to share it with a single click -- make sure they appear on every post you create.
The most effective position for sharing, according to research by CoSchedule, is everywhere. Prominence is more important than placement.
12. Write well
The informal nature of a blog gives you a bit of leeway regarding presentation, but it’s still important to ensure you avoid sloppy errors with your spelling and grammar.
It’s high school stuff, really -- ensure there are no excuses for readers to decide they’re going to take their business elsewhere. Poor writing could turn potential customers away, so always proof-read your work -- or better still, ask someone else to check it over. A second pair of eyes is more likely to spot a mistake than you are.
13. Publish useful content
It doesn’t matter how well you write, how nice your blog looks or how regularly you update it -- if you’re churning out posts that nobody wants to read, your blog will not be a success.
Again: think of who your customers are and aim to write content that will be useful and interesting to them. For example, consider some difficulties or problems your customers encounter, and use your expertise and knowledge to solve them. Your CRM is the data source of all the customer information you need, from complaints and FAQs to purchasing habits to social media accounts.
14. The right length
Deep analysis shows that longer content gets the most shares and backlinks. Does that mean you should strive to write epic posts every week? Absolutely not.
Keep most posts short, focused and informational. Plan an epic post, eBook, tutorial or research-based report a few times a year.
If people appreciate and value your work, they’ll be more like to take a look at the rest of your website. Their opinion of you as a person will also rise, and someone who thinks highly of you is more likely to do business with you -- and that is, after all, the blog’s main goal.
Creating a successful and productive business blog is not easy, but following these tips should give you the best possible chance.
Tangible benefits may come instantly, but it’s more likely they will take time -- so stick with it, build your base of regular readers and keep producing quality content. It could be the best investment of time you ever make.