This is a guest post by Sean Work, the Inbound Marketing Director at KISSmetrics.com. Say hi @seanvwork.
A highly trafficked business blog is a godsend. It’s a marketing channel entirely within your control. If you look at your other online marketing options, they aren’t as appealing. For example, pay-per-click advertising is subject to price swings. SEO is subject to algorithm shifts. And, we all know how out of hand social media can get.
When you have a great blog, you have your own online publication. Its value is generally underestimated, and its use is always underexploited. After all, you can place “free” advertising on it. You can obtain leads. You can build up email lists. And, you can announce new features and services.
However, it’s tricky to get a business blog to run smoothly year after year. It’s hard to get buy-in from your team, keep the resources coming, and publish a post regularly.
This post will cover how to make your business blog successful and how to keep the ball rolling. Let’s begin!
1. Don’t try to write all the content yourself
One of the biggest mistakes people make when launching a company blog is to throw the “job” of blogging to an intern or a marketing associate. It’s their job to blog X times a week.
This operational plan can easily keep a blog from going anywhere. Writing can be very time-consuming, and what happens is the blog manager (or editor) stops focusing on blog management and quality. They get stuck in a never-ending race to pump out blog content.
What the blog manager should be focusing on is perfecting the blog niche and paying serious attention to all content submissions. (We will talk more about this in section 3.)
If you’re serious about starting a strong blog, I highly recommend you contract with some professional bloggers to provide consistent content a few times a month. There’s a great website called Problogger.net that has a blogger job board. Post an ad on their job board, and you’ll be rollin’ in no time! (Obviously, you’re going to want to write a very specific “want ad” so you’ll find exactly the right blogger for your needs.)
Also, allow for guest authors to submit content for your blog. Don’t accept just anyone, or you’ll end up getting a lot of off-topic spam. Insist on people who have great insight into your niche. Guest authors can really help you fill your content needs.
Takeaway #1: The worst advice/organizational structure I’ve ever heard was: “We all need to wear multiple hats around here.” The best way to get the best results from an employee is to have them focus on one task. If you think about it, that’s the best way to ensure the highest chance of success for a specific activity. I recommend that you have one person focus on your company blog, and don’t have them work on anything else.
2. Create an editorial calendar
This is the most important, and really, the only tool you need to keep your blog running smoothly. Besides the obvious reason of keeping track of content you’re going to publish, an editorial calendar offers an “official” and “serious” due date for all your content.
The first step in getting a blog up and running is to consistently produce quality content. The editorial calendar provides a road map for you to stay on course.
However, there’s also an additional secret benefit of having an editorial calendar…
Once you tell authors you’re going to put their post in the “editorial calendar,” they can no longer back out. Any inclination toward flaking or “Hey, can I get it to you next month?” tend to disappear. Of course, the clout your blog carries also adds to this effect. Put simply, when you tell someone their post is in the calendar, it creates a sense of “Oh, this is for real.”
And, since this calendar really is a place to instill accountability, it’s usually a good idea to make the calendar transparent throughout your organization and with those who produce content for it.
What tool(s) should you use for an editorial calendar?
There are a lot of SaaS products available that provide functionality for an editorial calendar. Kapost is a popular tool. However, a Google Doc spreadsheet works pretty well, and it’s free and shareable with anyone who has a Gmail account.
Now, I’m not saying that you should ignore the SaaS blogging tools. They may provide extra time-saving features that you’ll find very valuable. I just haven’t used any of them, so I can’t recommend any one tool in particular.
Takeaway #2: Introducing your company blog as a serious undertaking at your organization is the first key to making your blog run smoothly. If people don’t understand the value of the company blog to the business, you won’t get internal people creating content for it, nor will you get the resources you need to make it flourish.
3. Confirm that your content passes the “suck” test
Obviously, you’re going to want your blog to become popular over time. This will prove to your company that the blog is a worthwhile venture, and you’ll get to reap all the rewards the traffic provides.
The only way you’re going to grow any momentum is by making sure you implement the First Rule of Copyblogger:
Don’t publish content in order to stick to some silly schedule. Only publish a piece of content once it doesn’t suck.
The whole blogging endeavor will go down the drain if the schedule becomes more important than the quality. While it’s important to blog frequently and keep people accountable for turning in their content on time, it’s your job as the blog manager or editor to make sure you’re publishing only content that is:
- Detailed and not glossed over
- Actionable (well, at least in our industry, that’s something you want)
- Not a rehash of someone else’s content
So, you might want to take a step back right now and ask yourself these questions:
- Who are we writing for?
- What do they desperately need?
- What information can we provide that will solve their problems?
- Can all the answers be grouped into a tight niche of some sort?
Answering these questions will help you focus the theme/niche of your blog. Once you get that down, it becomes a lot easier to determine which topics you’ll cover and which you won’t write about. More importantly, it establishes your blog as a resource for a specific topic.
Takeaway #3: Ask yourself: What do you want to be known for? What do you want to be the go-to source for? What will it take to get to that level? Think big! Don’t treat blogging as a business-as-usual task. Make sure everything you publish on your blog is really REALLY GOOD!
4. Become the world’s best content promoter
One problem you’ll have is obtaining initial traffic and perpetual momentum. Even with “unsucky” content and frequent output, you’ll need to get your content in front of the right people enough times to gain validation in your niche. It doesn’t happen with one killer blog post. It takes several amazing posts and the right people endorsing them.
Some of you are now thinking “Oh, right, you mean you need influencer marketing.” Well, that’s part of it. The only problem with influencer marketing is that most influencers are busy and everyone is bothering them all the time to look at content.
What I’m a bigger fan of is “power partners.” It’s a small business networking strategy. Every business has other businesses that they either do business with, are complementary with, or are good allies with. A simple example of this is a wedding cake bakery and a wedding photography studio. These two businesses share mutual customers and can refer business to each other. Also, they are NOT competitors.
To develop such an association:
- Make a list of all your potential power partners.
- Look at their social media following and determine how big their range is.
- Pick the top few companies that appear to be the best matches for you.
- Reach out to them and explain that you want to be power partners.
During that conversation, explain the benefits of your power partner relationship. Here are a few ideas to get your alliance kicking arse:
- Provide content for each other’s email newsletter
- Guest blog on each other’s blog
- Share each other’s content on social media
Many of you are probably already doing this, but if you’re having trouble getting your blog off the ground, then really focus on this strategy.
Takeaway #4: Here is where you should be spending most of your time. And, this is exactly why you shouldn’t be writing all the content for your blog. This part is going to take a lot of effort and creativity. You’ll have to be relentless in order to build your blog’s popularity. Don’t be disheartened if a few months go by and you’re not getting lift. Just stick with it.
5. Make sure your blog is properly SEO-ed
This is actually not that hard. There are just a few things you need to do to make sure your content and your blog overall have the proper “on-page” SEO in place.
Here are a few key things to look out for and take care of:
- Reduce duplicate content. If you are using WordPress, use the “more” tag.
- Block comment pages.
- Try to put the blog in a subdirectory of your main website.
- Make sure you have only one H1 heading tag per page.
I did a webinar a few months ago called Everything You Need to Know about SEO in 45 Minutes. It’s a good overview and should get you up to snuff on everything you need to know about SEO. You can view it here.
For those of you who work for a SaaS, ecommerce, or mobile app business, I highly recommend that you don’t have your development team create your blog from scratch. There are just too many possibilities for SEO mistakes that will haunt your blog for years. The biggest danger of building a blog from scratch is that the development team is probably going to be too busy to go back and fix “low priority blog issues.”
WordPress has proven to be a wonderful blogging platform. It’s super easy to drop into a directory on your website and get rolling in a matter of hours. And the best part about WordPress is a lot of functionality can be handled by plugins that don’t require a developer’s time.
Takeaway #5: SEO is two things – getting backlinks and optimizing the actual source code of your website/blog. A good blog will get you backlinks, so there is no need to try sneaky tricks to get them. Just focus on creating great content. Optimizing your source code and site structure should be done by a professional webmaster who is very knowledge about SEO. Find a pro and let them loose on your blog.
Running a successful B2B blog isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort. As a matter of fact, your email and blog marketing should be your top priority. Optimize those activities first, and then go after everything else later.
Remember, once content is produced, it can provide a lifetime of future business.
Finally, I have a few bonus tips for you:
Grow, nurture, and love your newsletters and email lists. In my opinion, these are some of the most valuable assets of your business. You really should start your email list(s) on day one. If you don’t have an email list that you can use for sending out blog notifications, create it now. It’s the one marketing channel you have absolute control over, and growing it sooner rather than later will do wonders for your business.
Write content for customers. Send the content out through your customer newsletter. Make sure your support reps know about this customer-centric content, and use the content to help customers. This will grow the blog and subscribership.
Hire a proofreader. A proofreader provides the final polish for your hard work. It’s a wise investment to keep your blog looking professional.
Questions about running a B2B blog? Leave them in the comments below!