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There’s lots of talk about blogging and millions of people blog on a regular basis. Some write about travel, others focus on fashion or food and diet trends, others just talk about what is or isn’t cool.
Blogging started as a fun activity, a means to engage with likeminded people all over the world, but increasingly businesses are using blogging as a crucial component in their inbound marketing strategy. Inbound marketing is all about attracting interested visitors into your business – compared with outbound marketing which pushes its messages out to audiences whether they’re interested or not …
So what’s it all about?
In this article we’re going to guide you through the art of blogging for business and why it’s important.
We’ll attempt to set out the strategy and best practices for:
Blogging is all about Inbound Marketing – attracting visitors to you and your website. The purpose is to engage with people who could become new customers and to be seen as an expert in your chosen niche. Remember, unless you’re a big company with a large advertising budget to help create a go-to brand that everyone recognises, most of these potential new customers may never have heard of your company. It’s a sad but true fact!
Someone once said: ‘A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet’ and it’s the same with customers – blogging is a way of reaching out to those strangers and turning them into your customers.
And just as you’re unlikely to become friend with every stranger that you meet, so it is that you won’t convert every visitor to your website into a customer, so think of the sales process as a large funnel.
Pouring in at the top are website visitors attracted because you’ve written about something that’s relevant and interesting to them. Some of these can be converted into sales leads and eventually nurtured into paying customers. But as we know from sales conversion ratios you need to engage with a lot of people (about 400) to convert one sale! This is why great blogging is crucial. It attracts more people to your website and with more visitors come more sales opportunities.
But how do you create a blog that gets the results you want?
Let’s explore strategy and best practices …
The key thing is to remember that the aim of your blog is to attract visitors to your website. You need to choose a topic that
1. They want to know about
2. That you can help them with
So what is it about your business that they will want to know?
As a starting point, we recommend sitting down and thinking about all the topics you could blog about and jotting them down.
It will help to think about the type of customers you’re aiming to attract and what their interest in your company might be – i.e. put yourself in their shoes.
Ask colleagues for their input too, especially those who have face to face interaction with existing customers:
It’s also useful to see what other companies in your particular sector are doing
Aim for a good long list of topics.
One of the key aims of a blog is to keep adding new content, so if you have plenty of topics to write about it will mean you can keep adding and engaging with potential customers.
If you’re struggling, think of a general topic and break this down into components that you could write individual blogs about.
If your business is in landscape gardening, one topic could be ‘Laying a New Lawn’.
Of course, you could write one long blog about this and cover all options. But how about breaking into those various options and writing a blog on each? Not only will it give you more topics but it will also help focus your writing.
So that way, one blog on laying a new lawn could be:
Now you’ve got your list of topics, let’s think about creating great titles for your blogs …
The title is the key element that will make your potential customers commit to reading your blog. Apparently if done well, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline fully. It’s the same principle as picking a magazine off the shelf – people read the headlines first, so you need to make sure the title’s something that will resonate with them. It needs to let the reader know the information covered and what they will get from reading your blog. However, don’t get too hung up on the exact wording at first, just create a working title that you can then write content for.
Keeping to our lawn theme, you could have a working title such as:
My lawn is a mess of weeds, moss and bare patches, and I’d like something better. What are my options?
You see, that’s a title that would resonate with a lot of potential customers and something you, as the expert landscape gardener, could easily help with. But with 20 words and 102 characters (including the spaces), it’s a bit too long.
Research has shown blog titles that perform best are those which have around 60 characters. If you’re wanting your posts to be shared on social media (and you are!) then headlines that are between 8 and 12 words long are best for Twitter. Headlines of 12-14 words are shared most often on Facebook.
So, focusing on the re-seeding aspect of your lawn improvement blogs:
Is your lawn full of weeds and moss? Here’s how to re-seed.
Just 12 words and 59 characters. It asks a familiar question and tells the reader that they will find the answer by reading your blog.
To make your blog the one that comes up when those potential customers are looking for a service or product you supply, it will need to include keywords. Check out How to Boost the Performance of your Business Website with Great SEO for more great tips.…
But as a reminder …
You’ll need to put yourself back in the customer shoes (or in this case gardening wellies). What is it that they’ll type into the internet search engine when they’re looking for help?
In the situation of the home-owner with the weedy, mossy lawn, she might search for:
Keywords here would be re-seeding, re-turf and lawn – fairly generic and likely to bring up thousands of results – and not exactly what the searcher is looking for.
However, a long-tail keyword – such as ‘lawn full of weeds and moss’ is more specific and would show up in your customer’s search.
So, when choosing your title you’ll need to be sure it includes a long tail keyword. You’ll see that our earlier title example does just that!
So now you have a topic and a title – it’s time to write some content …
One key piece of advice is to write content that suits your intended audience. It’s back to that ‘putting yourself in your customers’ shoes’ again! It’s a great idea to make it as conversational as you can, just as you would if you were chatting face to face. You want your blogs to be some of the most visited pages on your website and that’s about engaging with people time and again.
Introduce your topic
The introduction needs to capture their attention and keep it and it needs to be about the subject in the title and explain how you can help.
Use humour, facts or statistics to grab the readers’ attention.
Having hooked them in you now want your visitors to read on – as the body of the blog is where you’ll begin to convert them into potential customers.
What’s the ideal length of a blog?
It depends on your topic, but we’ve found the ideal minimum length to be around 2,000 words. It needs to fully cover your topic so that the readers’ questions are answered. If you keep the topic focused and tight it will be easier to keep the blog that way too. Don’t go off answering other questions – so in this example, if you’re writing about re-seeding a weedy lawn, don’t tell your visitors how to re-turf a lawn.
That’s a whole new subject for another blog. Of course, you can suggest they might prefer to re-turf – and direct them to your re-turfing blog.
How many keywords should I include?
Remember two things in this order:
So yes, you need to include keywords and phrases, but not so many that your blog sounds stilted and is awkward to read. Otherwise nobody will read it!
Include keywords in a natural way that flows with the headers and body of the blog. Be aware that if you squeeze too many keywords into a post with the hope of raising it in the rankings you are more likely to fail. Search engines may penalise you for ‘keyword stuffing’ – which defeats the object somewhat!
OK, so you’ve written your blog. It’s the right length, contains the answers to your readers’ questions and has just the right number of keywords, beautifully incorporated in the interesting content. It’s ready to post on your website isn’t it?
Hold on ….
It doesn’t matter how interesting your blog may be, one thing that is almost guaranteed to switch readers off are lines and lines of unbroken blocks of text on a page. One glance at content like that and they’ll be off to another, more reader-friendly page – perhaps one of your competitors.
Sentences and Paragraphs
It is much easier for website visitors to focus on blog content if it is in small chunks, so keep sentences brief and paragraphs to a maximum of 5 or 6 lines. That whitespace between paragraphs breaks up the density of the content and makes it gentler on the eye and much easier to read.
Sub-headings are a great way to break up blogs into bite-size chunks. Not only do they help you write focused content but also help your readers to skim content and decide which bits to read first. Use H2 or smaller tags for the sub-heading titles.
Remember, another great feature of sub-headings is that you can incorporate keywords and long tail keywords to help your SEO (search engine optimisation).
Bullet points and lists
Another great way to break up text and help your readers to understand your information is to break content into bullet points or numbered lists. For example, you could list the stages in achieving that weed- and moss-free lawn …
Don’t forget to write a conclusion (and call it just that!) Sometimes readers head for the conclusion first, just to check yours is the blog post that’s going to answer their questions.
As they often say ‘a picture says a thousand words’, so using images and graphics will help explain the message you’re conveying. They also grab the attention of your readers and draw them in.
Photos, videos and audio content can all be used to great effect and also serve to break up the text.
A blog without any images has far less appeal than one with visual content and you don't need a fancy camera to produce perfectly good photos and videos to incorporate in your blog. Use your smartphone, but make sure you have as much natural light as possible to get the best images.
Because you’re using images to deliver your points it’s vital that they reflect the blog and help website visitors understand content at a glance. This doesn’t mean they have to be a direct illustration but should at least be loosely related to the article. It’s also helpful if the images intrigue your readers and make them want to learn more.
Making images search-engine friendly
Search engines can’t read or search images unless they have an alt-text tab, so you’ll need to create alt-text so the search engine can understand what that image is. And so that the image can be found in searches you also need to include the keyword in any descriptions you have in the alt-text.
And while we’re on the subject of search engines …
Check out our comprehensive Guide to SEO, but as a little reminder about how to boost the performance of your business-to-business website using well-written blogs, here’s a short summary of the essentials of SEO covered in our guide:
SEO can be broken down into two main strategies: On-page SEO and Off-page SEO
The six on-page SEO components are:
The five off-page SEO components are:
You’ll need to consider all these when writing your blog, because if potential customers can’t find you through an internet search you won’t be able to move onto the next step …
Lead generation and inbound marketing are essentially the key purposes of having a blog in a commercial environment.
Think of it as encouraging customers to find you rather than going out and finding them. It’s easy to understand how much more engaged a customer who has looked for and found you is, than a random person who you’ve essentially ‘stopped in the street’ and hoped might be interested in what you’ve got to offer! The person who’s reading your blog is already a very warm lead.
Believe us when we say that your blog can be one of your most powerful tools in lead generation – and here’s a great little statistic to support that:
"B2B companies who blog a couple of times every month bring in almost double the number of leads than those who don’t, and as we know: more leads = more customers"
How does it work?
By increasing the number of visitors to your website via a blog, you’re also increasing the opportunity to generate leads. But how?
Without a blog most websites are fairly static; they have a limited amount of content and keywords, and the pages are more often than not structured to reach customers who already know of the company’s existence and are in the later stages of a buyer’s journey.
Blogs create new content that ‘strangers’ can find – people who are at what we term the ’awareness stage’; the homeowner knowing that she needs to do something with that lawn, but who isn’t sure of the best solution. …
Over a period, through building a relationship via a relevant blog, that stranger can become a prospect and then a customer. It can be a long- or short-term game depending on your company’s particular sales process, but it’s important to keep blogging regularly.
We believe it’s better to put quality over quantity, so be consistent – don’t blog every day if it means you hurriedly cobble together something for the sake of it. It could have the opposite effect of what you’re aiming for!
A good content plan that aligns with your sales process will help you outline what you’re going to write about and when.
Lead generation is much enhanced when you ask the visitor to do something …
To really make your blog work for lead generation, having attracted someone to read its content you’ll need to be proactive by guiding them towards the next step. …
The aim is to appear helpful rather than pushy and the next step must be relevant to the blog they’ve just read. So, for example, you might offer them an interesting download on ‘the right type of seed for your lawn’ which details the things they’ll need to consider – location, use, soil type and so on, or you could offer to give a no-obligation quotation for re-laying the lawn.
These are known as ‘calls to action’ (CTAs) and should direct the potential customers to a landing page on your website that collects information such as email contact or phone number etc. to allow them to download the information or ask for a quote.
We’d suggest you include these CTAs fairly early on in your blog post in case the reader doesn’t have time to read the whole content but make sure it doesn’t disrupt the user experience or send them to a page from which they don’t return! It’s a good idea to have a CTA at the end of the blog too, perhaps a click through to another page or blog.
Keep the gathered email addresses and other information on a GDPR compliant database or CRM system so that you can use the details to further build the relationship with the potential customer.
Next, you need to increase the reach of your blogs …
So your blog is written, it answers potential customers’ questions, it’s perfectly displayed and has all the right keywords to make it searchable.
That’s great. But wouldn’t it be even better and more useful if you didn’t just rely on it being ‘found’?
There are several ways to promote your blogs:
Everyone in your company (including YOU!) should read the company blog and share it with anyone and everyone. Of course this not only helps spread the word, introducing you to potential customers – but every click on your blog will increase its ranking in search engines. The more clicks, the higher the ranking and the more likely your company is to be found when someone searches for ‘re-seeding a lawn’.
Encouraging your co-workers to read the company blog also has a positive effect on their engagement with and understanding of the company’s position.
Customer-facing staff such as your sales and marketing, and accounts teams are ideally placed to share blog articles with prospects and existing customers. By using blogs to help advise, inform and educate, salespeople can build their prospects’ trust and confidence in your organisation – and turn interests into sales.
Remember, almost two-thirds of blogs are read on mobile devices rather than desktops, so when structuring your blog make it easy to read at all levels and have easily accessible options to allow other readers to share them, particularly on social media channels.
Key to all this is making sure your blogs are helpful and valuable
Know your target audience and make sure the preview window of the blog’s content will make people want to learn more.
It does take time to build a presence on social media and it’s a two-way channel between your blog and your social media accounts.
Don’t ever lose sight of the purpose of your blog – getting your business found in searches …
Business blogging on a regular basis means you’re creating new content so that your website can be found in internet searches, giving you the opportunity to develop relationships with potential customers.
As well as being relevant to your business, a blog gives the business a new voice, perhaps one that’s less corporate and more engaging than your main website. One that potential customers are likely to connect with and want to read. This dynamic (rather than static) content is what keeps the website fresh and helps to increase its ranking in search engines.
Whatever type of blog you choose to write – whether you tell stories, include humorous content, ‘Top 10 Tips’ or ‘How To’ (or even ‘How Not To —’), or invite comment or discussion, it’s important to give each new blog a new URL that includes the topic or title of the content.
Remember, your aim in each new blog is to create the potential for your business to develop a good reputation for that subject. In turn, this improves your ability to attract ‘qualified’ visitors (i.e. those who are seeking what you have to offer) to your website – and as they become more comfortable with your business they are more likely to become customers. It’s about building thought leadership.
And finally, now you’ve built a list of qualified visitors, you’ll want to keep them engaged with what you have to offer …
One of the key outcomes of your business blog is creating your own email database. If you’ve done this correctly, visitors to your blog who’ve answered your CTAs will have willingly shared their email details with you in order to receive something from you - downloaded guide/free quote etc...
It’s your list, full of potential customers, and good email marketing remains the most effective way of nurturing them into actual customers.
Use the data so carefully earned from your blogging to nurture your potential customers.
Blogging is a powerful digital tool – think of it as a printing press without leaflets that can help your business be found – and write your blogs with search in mind.
So don’t leave your website looking unloved and tired – keep publishing fresh content for those search engine spiders to find.
You’re not blogging for fun (although it shouldn’t be a chore), so you need to track how many people read your blog and how many become new subscribers. If certain blogs or types of blogs are more read and shared, then write more of those articles – they’re the most valuable.
We know it’s a commitment, but it is one that will deliver results for businesses.
And if you don’t believe us – here’s what other experts say:
We are big fans of Neil Patel who is one of the world's leading authorities on content marketing. Why not take 5 minutes to watch his video on How To Create the Perfect Blog Post:
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