Or, at least, it seems that every business blogs nowadays. But doing so effectively requires a thoughtful blog strategy – and far fewer teams have that.
In fact, in their popular B2B Content Marketing Benchmark report, the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs noted that heading into 2016 only 32 percent of marketers have a documented content strategy. But those who reported having an overarching strategy consistently said they produced better results.
Beyond that overarching strategy is a need for a blog strategy specific to distribution channels – and no channel is more important than a blog when it comes to generating leads and driving sales.
Simply filling up your blog with posts every week or so will not suffice as a long-term strategy. Instead, it needs to have its own living, growing strategy built around helping your audience through relevant content that positions you as a thought leader.
So how do you create a blog strategy that does all this, fits into your budget and promises unicorns, popcorn and rainbows? It’s not easy, but here is a step-by-step guide to building a blog strategy that gets results.
1. Define your blog’s purpose
The burning question you should be asking: Why should you have a blog?
Before you can dig into the strategy of your blog, you need to clearly articulate its purpose. Take a moment to go over these questions with your team (or, if you’re a one-person band, go over them with yourself and dream of the day when someone else can finally pick up a bit of this work).
- Why do you want to talk with your audience?
- How does your content help your audience?
- What do you know about your industry that you can educate others on?
- Why is your content relevant to your audience?
- What is the purpose your company is trying to fulfill for its audience?
- Does everyone on your team understand this purpose?
As you and your team answer these questions, try to boil all of these thoughts into a (buzz word alert!) mission statement for your blog. Buzz words aside, when everyone on a team or in an organization knows why a blog exists, how it helps the audience and what its overall goal is, it’s far easier to get support and resources.
2. Identify your buyer personas
The burning question you should be asking: Who are you talking to?
Ideally, you came away from step one with a mission statement about how your blog will better inform your audience and position you as a trusted resource for them. If you’re in business to make money, the audience you’re trying to inform should be someone who can buy your product or service.
But who is your ideal customer? Who buys from you currently? Who would you like to have buy from you? Understanding your customer more clearly helps you tailor your content to their interests.
As you identify the customer or client you want to work with, start researching common traits that they have to build a buyer persona.
Look for commonalities like:
- Similar social sites they frequent
- Demographic similarities like age and gender
- Company details like number of employees, geographic location, etc.
Use this information to create buyer personas that you address as you put together content. Talking to this person with the understanding of their behaviors will greatly influence how you write your content.
If you’re looking for a blueprint on how to do this, HubSpot makes one that is pretty solid. You can download it for free in exchange for getting added to their email list, which is worthwhile on its own as a case study for how to do email marketing right.
3. Take a peek at the competition
The burning question you should be asking: What is the competition doing?
OK, you know why you’re writing and for whom. What’s next? Now, it’s time to steal a glance at what your competitors are doing. This is not a step to help you create me-too content. Instead, look at this as an opportunity to see what works well for them and, even more importantly, to see what content gaps they haven’t covered.
Review your top three or four biggest competitors to see which content has worked best for them by reviewing the number of social shares it has. Use some keyword tools (see the next step) to see where they rank on certain keywords. Most of all, pay attention to what items you think matter most in the industry that they either completely missed or haven’t covered very well. This information will give you a way to quickly differentiate your blog with new, relevant information.
4. Do your longtail keyword research
The burning question you should be asking: What longtail keywords are you trying to win?
Longtail keywords tell search engines what your content is all about. When your customer searches for a specific phrase, the goal is to have your content show up and provide them with relevant information. But what do your customers and prospects search for? Dedicate time to researching which keywords they type into search engines, and then regularly include those in your blog posts.
How do you do that?
- Use Google’s Keyword Tool to get a taste for where you can beat the competition. This tool is meant to help drive Google AdWords, but it will give you a free assessment of the competition around your keywords.
- Use SEMRush to learn what keywords drive your competitor sites. With that information you can decide if you want to challenge them or go in a different direction.
- If you’re feeling like really diving in (and spending a bit of money), use Moz’s SEO tools to help architect your entire keyword plan.
- Finally, type your longtail keywords into Google and get a sense for the search result volume and what other content is out there.
Remember: Google’s algorithm changes constantly in a never-ending effort to help searchers get the answer they’re seeking. Old-fashioned blackhat SEO tactics like keyword stuffing will hurt your ranking. So whatever you’re doing with your keywords, focus on writing relevant, helpful content that matters to your audience.
5. Research and select distribution platforms
The burning question you should be asking: Once you create great content, where will it go?
Creating blog content is time-consuming, so you need to make sure you get every ounce of value out of a post possible.
The best way to do this is distribute it multiple times through the right channels and to repurpose the content wherever possible.
When it comes to the initial distribution of your post, go back to that persona research you did. Where is your audience talking shop? Are they participating in LinkedIn Groups? Are they sharing content on Twitter? Wherever they are is where your content should be. And don’t just share your post once and expect it take off. Share it several times (we share our Tweets up to 8 times at different hours of the day) and try out different headlines and pull quotes to attract reader attention. When you find a post that worked well, definitely make it a point to share it again.
When it comes to repurposing your content, think of the initial blog as the Thanksgiving turkey – if it’s done well, there are lots of bits and pieces you can use as leftovers, which some people like even more than the original.
Here are ways you can repurpose your blog content:
- Break out chunks of your post and turn it into emails for your prospects, always linking back to the full post.
- Roll the content from several blog posts on one topic into a themed whitepaper or eBook.
- Create a SlideShare using any stats for quick content snippets from your post.
- Create an infographic using a stat or quote from your content. If you don’t have a graphic person on your team, try simply adding words over the image for your post using a tool like AddText.
Want some more tips on distributing and repurposing? Check out this post on 9 tips to repurpose content like a pro.
6. Divide the blog roles amongst your team
The burning question you should be asking: Who’s doing all this work?
You need to decide exactly who will execute on this strategy. If you don’t create ownership around each of those components, your chances of success decrease.
You’ll want someone to own the following roles. Note that if you have a small team – or the dreaded one-person team – people may hold multiple roles, but all must be owned.
- Copy writing
- Longtail keyword research
- Copy editing
- Calendar management
- Image production/selection
- Ongoing audience and persona research.
This all requires significant resources, so refer back to your initial mission statement and make sure everyone is on board (particularly the boss) with making these efforts a priority.
7. Measure, analyze and tweak
The burning question you should be asking: What does success mean for your blog?
Going all the way back to step one, you should have an overarching purpose for this blog. Ideally, that purpose is tied to how you create content that helps your customers and prospects. If you’re doing that well, now is the time to tie that helpfulness to bottom line business goals.
This is a key point: No blog strategy is effective if it cannot be measured in a way that impacts your overall business goals.
For most content teams, the goal should be to use the blog as a conversion tool for longer, more meaningful conversations with an audience. This can be done by converting them to subscribers to your email list, getting them to download materials from your site in exchange for their contact information or by having them fill out a form to talk with you.
Driving action should be the goal, and measuring the steps to this result will make this all worthwhile. Avoid getting overly enthused by vanity metrics – pageviews, likes, retweets, etc. – if they don’t contribute to your end goal of converting your audience to some form of meaningful action.
For most blogs, early measurement around creating content that hits with your audience (increases in time on page and pages per visit and decreases in bounce rate) is an initial indicator your content is working. Farther down the line you’ll likely want to measure more tangible things like conversions to email lists, numbers of qualified leads and the like.
Once you understand exactly how your blog is going to lead to more of your goal conversions, any measurements tied to that process are valuable and should be measured and reviewed on at least a monthly basis.
Creating a blog that attracts and educates the audience you want to talk with is the best way to nurture potential customers. Revisit these blog strategy steps regularly and always keep your mind on your purpose. With this constant focus on building better content for your audience, you’ll be reaching your goals in no time.