7 Questions to Guide Your Business Blogging Strategy

Last updated February 2019

Anyone that spends much time online knows a simple truth: the internet isbusiness blogging strategy vast and awash in content. One estimate puts the total number of blogs online at over 500 million. For businesses doing content marketing, that means the competition is fierce.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean that business blogging isn’t well worth it. Business blogging has been found to produce 55% more traffic, 97% more inbound links, and 67% more leads. But those results aren’t guaranteed. You can’t just put up a blog post and hope for the best. The more content that gets published on the web, the more important it is to take a strategic approach to the content you put out there.

If your business has a blog, there’s no getting around it. You need a business blogging strategy.

The Difference a Business Blogging Strategy Makes

Every year the Content Marketing Institute publishes new research about the state of content marketing, and while every year the research reveals some new trends and priorities, one insight stays consistent: the importance of having a documented strategy

That’s true for content marketing in general, and just as true for business blogging in particular.

If you started a blog because you kept hearing businesses were supposed to have a blog, then you may have overlooked this crucial step in the rush to check a box on your business to-do list. But if you didn’t take time to figure out what you want your blog posts to accomplish, and how to match your efforts to those goals, then you probably aren’t seeing the results you felt you were promised.

A business blogging strategy accomplishes a number of important things:

  • It helps you maintain blogging consistency. One of the goals of a blog is that it gives your visitors something to come back for, and consistency is important for that. If you publish three blog posts in a week and then nothing for several months, people won’t know what to expect and are less likely to check back. A business blogging strategy will help you plan out your scheduling and keep up with it over time.
  • You can better tie your blogging efforts to SEO (search engine optimization) results. For many businesses, SEO is the main goal of starting a business blog. But getting onto page one in Google for popular search terms is extremely competitive—it doesn’t happen by chance and luck. To increase your visibility in search, you need a strong blogging strategy.
  • You can connect your business blogging to your other marketing efforts. A blog can be a powerful tool on its own, but it’s worth even more to your business if your blogging supports your efforts to build an email list, grow your social following and get better ROI for your paid search and social ads. That only happens if you’re strategic in how you approach your blogging.
  • You’ll more thoughtfully provide what your audience wants. You know your industry, which makes it tempting to think you know what topics to cover in your blog. But you’re not writing content for yourself, it’s for your audience. Creating a blog strategy will help you think carefully about who your audience is and what they care about, so you can center them in your blogging.

How to Create Your Business Blogging Strategy

To create a strong blogging strategy for your business, carefully consider and answer these seven main questions.

1. What are my business blogging goals?

A blog can be a valuable tool in bringing in new leads and customers, but most of your blog visitors won’t go straight from reading one blog post to making a purchase.  So while increased sales can be an ultimate goal for your blog, when it comes to creating your business blogging strategy, consider more intermediary goals  you can set that help contribute to eventual sales, such as:

  • Higher search rankings
  • Backlinks
  • Traffic
  • Email subscribers
  • Comments
  • Social shares

A blog has to help you gain more visibility and traffic before it can lead to sales. And signs of engagement, such as comments and social shares, are signals that visitors are starting to build a relationship with your brand—often a step on the path to becoming a customer.

Take time at this step to figure out what you really want your blog to accomplish. Do you want potential customers to have an easier time finding you? Do you want to build more of a relationship with the visitors that already come to your website? Having multiple goals is fine, but figure out what your priorities are. That will help you shape your strategy to better accomplish the main results you want to see.

2. Who am I writing for?

Hint: it’s not you. You can absolutely create a blog that’s all about the things you’re most interested in – but it shouldn’t be on your business website. Your business blog has to be about what your audience cares about.

If you haven’t already created a buyer persona for your marketing strategies, then create one now for your blog. It will help you clarify who your target audience is, and then better understand what their problems are, what questions they have, and the types of things they normally like to read and do online and in the world at large.

You want your blogging strategy to reflect your business goals, but for it to do that, you’ll need to take a step back and make sure you don’t make your blog all about your business. What you blog about and how you write needs to center your audience first and foremost.

3. What does my audience care about?

You really want to get inside their heads here (as much as you can without being creepy, anyway). If you’re a local business in a city full of people with local pride, that should come through in your business blog. If your audience is moms who care about the environment and worry about the ecological effects of every product they buy, your blog should share that concern (and provide information that helps them make informed choices).

Do your research.

  • Pull up websites you know your customers like and look at what posts and articles are the most popular.
  • Read the comments that people in your audience write on those sites.
  • Spend time in forums.
  • Have conversations with your customers and prospects directly.

Keep a running list where you collect everything you learn so you can make sure you’re blogging about the things they care about.

4. What keywords do I want to rank for?

If SEO was anywhere on your list of goals, then keyword research should be a key part of your business blogging strategy. Keyword research helps you figure out what topics your audience cares about, and the language they most frequently use when searching for information on those topics.

The keywords you uncover in your research will help you shape your strategy around the concepts your audience is interested in, and will help you create a plan for gaining the search rankings that are the most valuable for your business.

When identifying keywords for your blogging strategy, give as much priority to long-tail keywords as you do broader, more popular keywords. A good SEO strategy is built as much on answering more detailed and specific questions as it is on providing pages that address the main general topics in your industry. For example, a company that sells time tracking software may want to consider terms like “how to have more productive meetings” as well as terms like “time tracking software.”

5. What are my competitors doing?

You have two categories of competitors: your business competitors and your blog competitors. There may be overlap, but you want to especially pay attention to the latter in this category. When you do searches for the target keywords you’ve identified, make note of who shows up the most often.

You have a lot to learn from the businesses winning the top spots in your industry in search. Analyze their blogs. Which blog posts are the most popular? How long is the typical post?  How do they format each blog post? And what can you learn about how they distribute and promote their posts?

SEO tools offer features to help with competitor research. You can get a list of the keywords your top competitors are ranking for, learn which keywords send the most traffic to their website, and see what backlinks they have. All of that information can help you build out a stronger blogging strategy based on what you know works.

6. What’s my (realistic) blogging schedule?

The fact is, research shows that more frequent blogging tends to get better results. Businesses that manage to publish 16 or more blog posts a month got 3.5 times more traffic than those who publish 0-4.

business blogging traffic

Image via HubSpot

For many businesses, that’s inconvenient knowledge, especially as research also shows that the time it takes to create a high-quality blog post grows every year.

business blogging time

Image via Orbit Media

While publishing fresh content frequently can often add up to better business blogging results, that’s only true if the content is good and you keep up with it. A lot of businesses don’t have the bandwidth for daily blogging, and if you try to push out a high-quality longform blog post every day, you’ll get burned out pretty quickly.

The ideal isn’t to produce as much content as you possibly can, it’s to produce as much good, worthwhile content as you reasonably can. Setting your sights too high in terms of quantity will mean an abandoned blog or junk content no one wants read.

Carefully consider how much time you really have, how much time your employees really have, and how much you can afford to spend on a good freelance blogger. Then create a blogging schedule that you can realistically manage.

7. How am I going to promote my blog posts?

Don’t overlook this step. It’s one of the big things that sets successful blogs apart from those that fail. People have a lot of content to choose from out there. How are they going to find yours if you don’t create a plan to get it in front of them?

Content promotion can take a number of different forms. Some common strategies include:

  • Sharing all of your blog posts on social media.
  • Using paid advertising to drive traffic to your blog posts.
  • Promoting your blog posts to your email list.
  • Writing guest posts that link back to your blog posts.
  • Highlighting industry influencers in your blog posts, so they’ll help with the sharing.

Whatever tactics you decide to go with, make sure your business blogging strategy includes room for promotion, both in terms of time and budget.

A Business Blogging Strategy is Key to Success

Starting a blog is easy enough, but doing blogging that yields tangible results for your business is hard. Anyone who says otherwise is misleading you. If you’re going to invest in a blog, be willing to invest enough to make it worth it.

My free report on building a better blog is a good place to start in visualizing your larger business blogging strategy. If you could use some help with the content writing, side of things, I may be able to help.

How Bloggers Blog: The Survey

Do you blog?

The number of people that answer that question with a “yes” continues to grow.

Blogging can look really different depending on who’s doing it.  A blog that’s mostly meant as a fun way to work out your thoughts or track your experiences on vacation will provide a different experience than the blogs meant to help promote a business. Even within the latter category though, how people blog varies.

To get a clearer picture of what business blogging looks like, Orbit Media took a survey. What they found, as expected, is that there’s a wide variety in how bloggers blog. Even so, they were able to pull out a few key trends in the blogging process.

  • Most bloggers spend less than 2 hours on each post, but it’s not unheard of to spend over 6 hours.
  • Bloggers don’t keep normal business hours. They write whenever they can fit it in, or when an idea hits.
  • Most bloggers work from a home office.
  • Many bloggers publish new posts multiple times a week.
  • Few bloggers have editors.
  • The main blogging promotion tools used are social media and SEO.

Not too many of those surveyed were freelance bloggers, but the survey findings match my experiences pretty well.

There’s no one right way to blog. Anyone who works in a creative field knows that you just have to figure out what works best for you.

If you want your blog to succeed as a business tool though, there are a few key things you need to keep in mind.

For a more in depth look at what you need to do to build a more successful business blog, download the Austin Copywriter report on the subject.

So what about you? How do you blog?

 

You’re Not Normal, So Stop Marketing To Yourself

Doesn’t it just drive you crazy when you’re trying to read a magazine and you keep having to flip to different pages to finish each article. No?

Image by Nina Mathews via flickr

That’s because you read a magazine the way most people do, flipping through to see which articles are interesting to you rather than starting from the beginning and reading straight through to the end the way weirdos like me do it. Magazine publishers design their issues based on normal reading habits. My habits aren’t normal.

I Wrote This Sub-Heading Just For You

Which brings us to another way in which I’m strange, I read blog posts the same way: I start at the beginning and read through to the end. As a writer who produces content for the web, I had to do my research to figure out that this isn’t normal.

It’s not just me. Especially tech-minded people see the world differently than the audiences they sell to, a lesson they had to be reminded of by Justin Jackson. Whatever your personal vision of “normal” is, probably isn’t. When you to need to reach people that aren’t just like you, you have to get outside of your own head.

If I want people to read what I write, I had to figure out how to appeal to the normal reader, rather than doing what comes naturally to me.

Do Your Research

It’s human nature to assume that the way we like to do things is the best and most obvious way to do them. It sure would make marketing easier if that was the way it worked. Instead, figuring out what people respond to is hard work and involves a lot of research, followed with trial and error.

If you start a blog to promote your business, you can’t just sit down and brainstorm a list of all the topics you think would be interesting to write about. If you’re lucky, there will be some overlap between what you want to write about and what your target audience wants to read, but you can’t count on it.

Instead, you need to go where your target audience is and learn what they’re responding to.

The Best Way to Learn About Your Audience.

If you can contact them directly, this is the gold standard!

Surveys, calls to clients, email requests for feedback – if you have enough of a relationship with members of your target audience to get information on what they want to read about without annoying them, then use it. Few things will serve your marketing as well as taking the time to listen to your current customers (or people just like them) about their problems, concerns, and needs.

What Next?

Failing that (or to supplement that), find the other blogs in your space and lurk. Don’t worry. It’s not creepy to lurk on a blog or website the way it is in real life. It’s a valid and fully expected way for you to gather information about what people like.

Research the blogs and publications that are getting the most visits in your industry, as well as the ones that get the most engagement (they’re not always the same):

  • This tip probably goes without saying, but Google some of the key terms related to what you do and see what comes up.
  • Check out what’s listed for your industry on Alltop.com
  • Use FollowerWonk’s search function to find some of the people with the most followers in your industry.

This will get you started. Once you’ve found a few of the top blogs in your industry, it’s easy to follow the trail to more influential sites.

You see, bloggers and websites that get to the top of the food chain pretty much always get there with the help of other bloggers and websites. That means the guys you find that are influential in your industry are probably following, linking to, and otherwise connected with other influential sites in your industry. Once you find your first two or three, they’ll lead you to the rest.

Pay Attention to Metrics

You don’t want to just read these guys. You want to pay careful attention to the things they write that get the most shares and comments. These are the topics your readers care about.

Obviously, you shouldn’t straight up copy the big guys, but use what you learn there as a launching board for collecting ideas for your own blog.

Quick note: this isn’t a step you do once and are done with. Once you’ve collected a list of relevant blogs in your space, make them part of your weekly (or even better, daily) research routine so you can stay up to date on what people are concerned about in your industry. This will not only help you regularly come up with topic ideas, it will also help you stay connected to your industry.

You can use feedly to collect all the blogs you want to follow into one stream. And of course,  follow them all on twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

If what you discover your audience likes seems totally counter-intuitive, all that means is that you’re not normal. If you’d done your marketing based on the way you think, you’d have failed. Now, you can craft your marketing efforts based on what matters:  your audience.

The Benefits of Content Marketing

Now that you know what content marketing is and why it’s good for your small business, let’s talk about some of the specific benefits a business can achieve with good content marketing.

Part 3 in our Introduction to Content Marketing for Small Businesses video series covers what you can expect to get out of content marketing.

Give it a look, and let me know what you think!

If you prefer to read it rather than watch it, here’s the transcript:

Hi! I’m Kristen Hicks and welcome to part 3 of the Austin Copywriter video series on content marketing for small businesses.

Our focus in this video is some of the specific benefits content marketing can offer to your business.

We’ve talked more generally about why it’s useful and what it is, so here’s what you can expect to get out of content marketing.

Benefit #1: A stronger reputation.

So much of small business success comes back around to reputation. Who’s heard of you and what did they hear?

Current and past customers who have had a great experience with you are a really good way to build this reputation, but limited. They don’t know everybody, and you want to attract and impress customers included in that circle beyond their reach.

Imagine a woman in crisis. She’s having a terrible day because she has a problem she can’t solve on her own.

Naturally, she turns to Google. She finds a blog post on your website telling her exactly what she needs to know to solve her problem.

Success! You’ve just made a positive impression on someone who has never heard of you before.

The problem and solution vary depending on what you have to offer, and how you help your customers, but the idea is consistent. Helping people will improve your reputation.

Benefit #2: A convincing demonstration of your expertise.

That same woman we just talked about. Not only does she think fondly of your company now because you helped her solve a problem, that blog post also showed her you know your stuff on: accounting/furniture building/gardening/whatever your business does.

If you’re worried that giving your expertise away for free could lose you business, chances are, it won’t.

Most people are happy to hand over the chores they don’t excel at to someone who does (for a reasonable price).

Benefit #3: Greater visibility.

You need people to know you exist, plain and simple. No one will ever think to buy your product or services without first knowing you exist.

Content marketing helps spread the good word of your business throughout the web. And, once people start liking you enough to talk about you with friends, beyond.

You give people something worth talking about and sharing, and they will. Your reach will extend based on how large of an audience you gain, and how much they like what you have to say.

While not a comprehensive list, that hits some of the most important benefits of content marketing for your small business.

Check back soon for the 4th and final entry in our Beginner Content Marketing for Small Business video series where we get into some of the best tips to make sure you do content marketing right.

Content Marketing in 2014: Predictions and Plans

In the internet age, everything seems to move fast, and marketing is no exception. Even just the term “content marketing,” which has taken over to describe and shape a certain segment of the marketing world, only came into regular use in the past few years.

In a constantly shifting landscape, with new tools and trends often seeming to come out of nowhere, predictions are tricky business. Nonetheless, Content Marketing Institute found 50 content marketing professionals prepared to make their guesses for the coming year.

My own prediction made the cut, putting me in some pretty fantastic company, here it is:

I think the main trend will be towards more. I don’t mean that in terms of quantity, but rather more formats, posts that pack in more useful information, and an acceptance that content marketing requires more time and effort than some previously realized.

If you think I’ve got it all wrong, tell me what you think in the comments. What’s your prediction for the next year?

I can only offer conjectures for the general state of content marketing in 2014, but I have absolute power over the goals and plans for Austin Copywriter’s content marketing in 2014.

If I publish it where everyone can see it, there’s no going back. So, without further ado:

1) Commit to publishing on this blog with more regularity.

My modest, but realistic goal for this is at least one post a month. I recognize more would be ideal, but as one person balancing my own marketing with client work, understand the importance of making sustainable commitments.

I’ll be the first to tell clients: less content of better quality will always beat out a higher quantity of content that’s sloppy and lazy.

2) Experiment with new content formats and channels.

I’ve already delved a bit into the world of content development that falls outside of my writing comfort zone. Part 1 in my new content marketing for small businesses video series is already out, and the rest of the series will be released in early 2014.

You can also check out my new SlideShare presentation on the Basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for Small Businesses.

I aim to do even more with video, SlideShare, and images throughout 2014.

3) Develop and execute a content promotion strategy.

By seeking out more guest posting opportunities and building up relationships on social media, I plan to draw more attention and new subscriptions to the blog.

Like many people, I’ve learned the hard way that just creating good content and putting it out there isn’t enough. You have to develop a larger strategy that includes plans for promotion to get attention in an already overcrowded space.

4) Make regular, genuine contact with readers and others in the content marketing community a higher priority.

Relationships are hugely important in just about every aspect of life. This has only become more obvious to me in my years as a freelancer.

My goal is to build up a larger professional network of contacts that includes: readers of this blog, other marketers in Austin and online, other freelancers in a variety of industries, and small business owners excited about building their businesses with content marketing.

5) Attend local networking events and conferences to build a network and community of professional contacts of various skills and specialties.

Related to #4, I’ve found there’s no real substitute for meeting with other professionals in person, and attending live educational events. I’ve gotten a lot out of these experiences in the past year, and expect 2014 to be no different on that front.

Some of these are continuations of the business plan and content strategy I put together in 2013, but still of tantamount importance to my goals for the business.

What about you? Do you have a plan and strategy for the next year yet? Are there any questions or obstacles getting in the way of putting one together? Let me know, I’ll do my best to help.