Having been responsible for a few corporate blogs over the years, I’ve developed a few as-of-this-blog written rules for better blogging. As a result of these, I’ve experienced traffic which punches well above its weight when compared to similar blogs.
Starting a blog should be a strategic decision. So let’s start with the strategic question: what are you trying to achieve?
What’s the objective?
Can you succinctly describe the objective of your blog? If not, try and refine this down until you get one main objective. This is the most important thing.
Always have that in mind when you are writing your blog – is it to sell something (in which case I really question if a blog is the right medium in the first place), to demonstrate thought leadership, to provide tips and updates around a product or service, or is it something else? Regardless, we all want more traffic, so if you do it well, then you should find good natural organic growth and become a trusted resource for your audience.
What isn’t the objective
If you say something like to ‘get links’ or to ‘improve SEO’ then you’re starting the blog for the wrong reason. Read the rest of this post, then think about it again. After all, if you do it well, then sessions, social shares, inbound links and improved SEO will all be a byproduct of your successful blog.
The guiding star
The blog’s objective should also act as a strategic guide or compass point. It gives the various people that may be working on the blog a common direction.
Too many times you or someone with influence will be tempted to ‘just post this’ or just do it ‘quick and dirty’ when that post doesn’t work towards your objective. This is where you have to have the discipline and reject the post or the edit etc.
Be strong – the value of your blog is the cumulative value of your posts. If you put out bad or non-adhering posts then your blog will stray off course.
Your objective should be to add value to your audience. Not to directly sell them something. That’s largely why you have a website, a shopfront, a market stall, a call centre etc. That’s where you sell – your blog should not be a direct driver for sales, but instead add value to your audience and other sales activities.
If you do have a corporate blog that makes lots of sales, then congratulations, you are part of the tiny fraction of sexy corporate blogs and you don’t need this post. For the rest of us, lay off the sleazy salesman language and think about how you can help your audience.
Think about your audience
A fraction of what you want to say is of interest to your audience. The sooner you realise that the better.
The internet is awash with corporate blogs that whether they know it or not, their main audience is the senior management team of that company, not their main customer audience. Senior management often wants to see posts about how great the product or service is, but if you start succumbing to that, then don’t bother with writing a blog.
Can you remember the last overtly salesy corporate blog post that you read and didn’t stop halfway through? Yep, me neither.
You need to understand what your target audience want know about. Imagine for a moment that you don’t have a vested interest in promoting something to that audience, and instead think about the general subject matter and what your audience would like to know.
Take the time to do this properly and be honest with yourself, because if you don’t then you’ll probably start blaming this or a bunch of other business blog advice posts for your blog’s poor performance. Don’t make excuses, understand your audience or you’ll only ever produce a mediocre blog.
If you haven’t scoped out your sales funnel yet, that’s a whole other post (to come), but it is also important to think about the buying stage of your audience: are they right at the top of the funnel and only encountering your brand for the first time, or have they already bought your product or service and they are looking to expand or improve their experience of your product or service.
Inform and/or entertain, don’t sell
As mentioned, your blog is about adding value and supporting other channels. A great rule thumb is: will your audience come away from this post informed and/or entertained, without feeling sold to?
Of course, you need to remain on the subject matter of your blog, but the image at the top of this post best shows where the sweetspot is:
- Most of what you want to say is irrelevant or of interest to the majority of your audience
- Most of what they want to hear is not what you have an informed opinion about or what you want to say
- The small overlap of space in the Venn diagram is what should form the basis of your content strategy. This is what you have the expertise and an opinion about and this is what your audience wants to know about.
What does it all mean – setting KPIs
Now, as a big fan of tangible metrics, you should definitely identify some for your blog. These will depend on what your overall objective is, but here are some suggestions for the examples I used above:
|Thought leadership||This could be anything from industry experiments, opinions on current topics or new approaches to old problems. Think Moz, Symantec, or Hubspot.||
|Tips & advice||Educational pieces around the product or service, think LinkResearchTools or WordStream||
|Updates||Roadmap and upcoming release details, though this is normally a very hard objective to get traction with and is normally the reserve of large brands or press. E.g. HubSpot product updates and Netflix.||
|Behind the scenes||An insightful look behind the scenes within a company. Be careful with this approach though as it’s very easy to be really bland with this approach. If you decide to go down this path then ensure that you are showing yourself at your weak points – the point is to show the human side behind your company and to generate empathy. Think of the Startup podcast by Gimlet Media, or this post by Hotjar.||
Review your metrics often as these will help keep the motivation around improving your blog high. I’ll get into shortcuts, say growth hacks (though I tend to cringe when I hear this), to driving your metrics further in future posts. Also, don’t be afraid to reward yourself
Please comment and let me know what you thought of the post. Also, please add any other nuggets of advice that you may have for an aspiring business blogger.