“Blogging is simply talking about what you know and love so that consumers will grow to know and love you too.”
Blogging sounds like hard work, and it can be to begin with, for those who haven’t done it before (which explains why it’s often outsourced to people like me).
But with free tools like WordPress or even the new Articles feature on Facebook allowing for microblogging straight onto your business page, it’s never been easier to become an expert publisher in your industry.
It’s that old “show, don’t tell” thing. Blogging allows you to show you know your product, your service or your customers inside out, while offering them much more than just the initial transaction.
The benefits of content creation for online consumers are becoming increasingly well documented. Hubspot reviewed data recently from 5,000 online businesses and found that 85% had increased website traffic from content creation within just 7 months.
Content helps with two of the three main elements of Search Engine Optimisation – relevance and authority (i.e. how well your content answers the search question and how trusted your answer is by audiences – how often it is shared/linked to). The other element in Google ranking – usability – is something your web designer needs to work on (things like mobile-readability, page loading times, UX, etc.)
But being able to work on two out of three all by yourself ain’t bad though!
How Does Blogging Help Your SEO?
When a journalist includes a link back in an online article, that’s a signal to Google that the website is an expert in its field, that it is good quality and should be promoted. Likewise, when a key blogger tweets a link to it, that’s a signal to Google too. And when people share the social media posts onto their own profiles, that’s more signals.
Also, accurately categorising your blog posts and tagging your images can help search engines further. “Metadata” is a technical term you shouldn’t be frightened of. It is merely information on a webpage that is held almost unseen, to help search engines know what’s on the page. You input this info as “tags” and “categories” when you write each post.
For this post for example, I would include tags like “Blogging for Business”, “Content Marketing”, “Brand Blogging”, “Leanne Ross”, “Wordpress.”
You can also include helpful search tags in the ALT names of images you upload to your blog post (replacing spaces in between words with hyphens to help the Google robots crawl over the data). Use them, they will help bring people to your content when they search for images as well as information.
Another great way to repurpose content and boost SEO efforts is to create Slideshare presentations based on your articles. Presentations on Slideshare (now owned by LinkedIn) are usually made up of short-form bullet points from the full post, with images or video links. In the way you would do to present an overview of information through PowerPoint at a meeting, for example.
What To Blog?
So you know blogging works. But the next hurdle is deciding what to write about? Luckily, finding out what people want to know in your industry is free.
For example, if you sell t-shirts you can use Google’s auto-complete function to find out the most popular questions and then answer them. Type in “T-shirts for” and Google will provide you with a list like:
• T-shirts for women
• T-shirts for men
• T-shirts for dogs
• T-shirts for sale
These are your first four article themes (even the dog one, do it!)
You can do this research smarter with AnswerThePublic, a website that pulls the answers to your search terms together on one page for you. This is more interesting than simply keywords because it gives you the questions people are asking around your keyword using typical question phrases (the 6W’s – who, what, where, when, why, which, plus ‘are’ and ‘how’).
Questions, reworded, often make the best blog headlines – which are also vital to catching an audience’s attention in a crowded online marketplace.
I personally write a blog about the PR industry. If I take only 1 question from a few of the sections that AnswerThePublic returns for me, I get article headline inspiration like:
1. How PR Works
2. Why PR is Important
3. What PR Companies Do
4. PR Where to Start
5. PR When You Need It
Using these insights to inform relevant blog content will improve it’s visibility, share-ability and therefore your audience growth and subsequent website hits.
It’s also a good idea to visit Buzzfeed – a global phenomenon in terms of online viral content. Searching their site for your keywords will bring up a host of popular online articles which you can “borrow” ideas from. Then, use an online tool like Buzzsumo to find out what the most shared content online is, relevant to your sector and take that as inspiration, too.
Likewise following online forums like Reddit, where the public debate topics and vote their favourite content up the rankings, offers great insight into what people are currently enjoying online if you search for your specific product, industry or related themes.
Getting used to a community like Reddit will help you learn what kinds of content do well and you’ll be following in the footsteps of some of the major online publishers, like the Daily Mail, Unilad and Buzzfeed, who have all run stories they found on community posts.
Well, why reinvent the wheel?
There are also generic themes that remain guaranteed good content ideas for most businesses, such as:
• Lists (“listicles” instead of articles) given our much-reduced modern day attention span. Works particularly well if it’s “hyperlocal” e.g. The Top 10 Places To Eat in Belfast
• Longer case studies or shorter testimonials from customers, suppliers or partners
• Demo videos or How-To articles
• Other User Generated Content (like encouraging customer photos with a product using a hashtag) which you then republish on your own feeds
• A list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) with answers
• Interviews with industry people or Behind-The-Scenes with your staff
• Guest posts from other people who may have something useful to say to your customers
• Customer newsletters can also be adapted into blog posts
• Your personal journey or the company back story
• Industry news and your opinion on topical issues
• Round up articles of successes, or failures, what you’ve learned, “What Not To-Do” lists
• Short templates or guides through to longer eBooks and white papers, if relevant to what you do (like what I’ve done with my book, because that’s what I sell)
• Podcasts, live chats/Q&As or live streaming – works well at conferences or events
• Infographics with statistics, facts and quotes
• Photographs from events, awards, photo calls, etc.
• Humorous “memes”
• Running polls, surveys or quizzes through Facebook/Twitter themselves, using SurveyMonkey or using free tools like Qzzr
• Running competitions, using apps like WooBox
• Courses, webinars, online training – much more time intensive to produce but if applicable to your business they can be very lucrative
• Repurposing any reports you’ve created, uploading presentations you’ve given to Slideshare for social sharing, and then explaining the learning behind it.
You can also utilise basic Google searches to bring you back content ideas in your industry by using a “search operator” (like the * symbol) in between terms.
So for example I can search for “How to * PR” and it will give me lots of results, by replacing * with appropriate phrases. Results like “how to do your own PR”, “how to generate good PR”, “how to get a job in PR” and “how to combine PR and inbound marketing.”
Another Google search, this time for “magazine + PR” (or whatever industry you’re in), can show you all the relevant industry titles websites. Have a look through their old content for topic inspiration.
The key to both blogging (or creating any type of content) and then promoting the articles among your sales messages on social media, is to plan.
And this can seem quite daunting when you haven’t done it. Staring at a blank page is one of the most intimidating things you can do (trust me, I wrote a book!)
But as with everything else I’ve covered, it’s very simple. And once you see it you may be loathe to pay someone else to do it.
My plans are a simple calendar in a spreadsheet or table – listing the months across the top and dates 1-29/30/31 down the left hand side.
I then populate this with every key date I can find from the calendar – including global holidays if the brand operates worldwide – then moving on to entertainment and sporting events, through to funny “Days of the Year” that might be relevant and engaging.
After that, I input the blog articles we have planned that fit in with the seasons and themes, and then lastly we look at the brand’s own messages that they want to get out, which are usually more sales-like in nature. So things like promotions, new product lines, staff announcements, awards or any of the other corporate news.
Below is a snippet from a first draft calendar for the first few months of 2016, before the specific corporate news has been inputted.
This suddenly makes the job of social media management and content creation much easier because you feel focussed and prepared. You see no blank spaces and feel confident that social content promotion won’t burn out or be forgotten about.
Of course there will be other things to do online, like answer comments and messages from customers, research and engage with potential blogger/influencer partners, source media journalists, and jump at any opportunities to get involved with relevant trending topics or news items that arrive via email alerts. But you can’t plan for those. At least this way, your channels will never be empty, and you won’t have to worry about losing your focus or brand voice.
Blogging Return on Investment
Blogging has lots of benefits for the individual doing it, from giving you a voice and personality, creating content for your brand channels, positioning you as an expert in your field and increasing your website visitors.
But for wider business benefits and brand authority too, if you are selling a product or service, campaigning to change attitudes or you’re working to increase public awareness, a consistently-published library of well-written, technically-linked, branded blog posts will be doing this work for you even while you’re not working.
It will bring people to your website or your social media channels or wherever it is you have linked them to arrive, and then if you have put the work in to create a high-value piece of content, they will stick around to find out more.
Leanneis a Digital Communicator, Accredited Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Commended in the CIPR 2015 Outstanding Young Communicator Award in Ireland. With a decade in the PR industry, Leanne has led communications strategies across the private, public and voluntary sectors, most recently working with eCommerce e-tailers, startups and social enterprises to harness the power of Digital PR, Content Marketing and Social Media to grow their businesses. She writes a blog called a Cup of Lee commenting on the Irish Communications industry as well as guest lecturing at the University of Ulster and is a regular guest speaker, industry trainer and mentor to young entrepreneurs. In 2016 Leanne released her Top 5 Bestselling book “Talk is Cheap – The Digital PR Your Startup Needs But Can’t Afford” available on Kindle and paperback from Amazon.