Although blogging has been associated more with niche affiliate sites, larger businesses are now beginning to recognise that having a blog as part of their website, can be a key part of their inbound marketing strategy. It is not an easy option however and maintaining a blog can be hard work, but the rewards can also be extremely profitable.
This article looks at how blogging can attract more visitors and create more links to your main website. It also explores some of the main concerns that businesses may have about maintaining a blog and it offers some support to content writers, who are often the ones updating and creating the content needed to keep the blog up to date.
Blogging as a Marketing Strategy
A recent infographic produced by Elive8 looked at all aspects of an inbound marketing strategy and how it could be improved within most businesses.
However what really stood out for me, as a writer in this detailed analysis, was the impact that maintaining a blog could have on a business website.
As Elive8 describe, blogging is an opportunity to provide value and credibility for a business, so how exactly can that be achieved and then maximised?
Content marketing is a core part of any inbound marketing strategy, and it is the blog content that has a vital role to play within that strategy.
Blogs are important because, in general, websites tend to be static pieces of information that change very little, so repeat customers are met with the same information every visit. A blog on the other hand is constantly changing and being updated with the latest information and knowledge. This is why it needs to become central to any content and inbound marketing strategy.
So what is content marketing? Well according to the Content Marketing Institute they describe it as;
"Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behaviour" Content Marketing Institute
The opposite of this is outbound marketing which relies on adverts to grab readers attention. However many people are now ignoring advertising and resent its intrusion into our lives. Most people want adverts that are specific to their own lifestyle and they want information to make informed decisions, before buying.
Building Customer Trust
Content marketing is a way to provide readers with information and it is also an opportunity to establish authority on a subject matter and been seen as an expert.
This is important in order to gain respect and trust from customers. It works in much the same way that many people prefer to buy branded goods, because they are familiar with them and this gives them a sense of trust about the product.
History of Content Marketing
Content marketing is not a new concept as the following video from Elive8 shows. In fact dating back as far as the mid 1800s advertising has been introduced as a way of trying to influence people’s purchasing decisions.
The challenge for content writers is to engage their customers, in the way that stories have always engaged their audience and influenced thinking.
The Content…. in Content Marketing
The influence aspect of content marketing comes from the content itself. It needs to provide the reader with the information they want, as well as giving them information they didn’t know they needed. They should leave the page with more than they arrived with and feel that you added something to their decision making.
Many content marketeers focus their writing on SEO techniques and hope that google notices them. What successful content marketeers do is different, they focus on what their customers want and they are then guaranteed that google will notice them.
How do content writers develop their content? There are two things that a writer needs to do before they start;
- Know their audience
Content writers don’t just sit down and write, they need to read and research as well. The difference with good content writers is that they are researching all the time. Ideas, web links, articles on Twitter or emails, these are all potential sources of inspiration. It’s important to manage your research material and keep track of everything you gather.
There are several programmes to help you keep track of all your notes, such as Evernote or Scrivener. As you develop expertise on certain topics then the research will become easier and take less time, but new topics will always need some time allocated to reading and gathering information.
Know Your Audience
In order for the material and content to be relevant to your audience it needs to answer questions or provide information that is needed. Finding our which questions are being asked means that you need to know your audience. There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved such as participating in general question forums such as Quora.
Forums can either be linked specifically to your industry or be more general about writing content, such as Digital Marketing. Whatever the forum they can act as a source of inspiration and help you to understand the needs of your clients.
One of the biggest things that puts businesses off developing a blog site is the time required to write content. In order for content marketing to be effective there are three things that your blog content needs to be.
- Regular – readers will expect content at regular interviews whether that is once a week, three times a week or once a fortnight. Any less frequently and the blog becomes a static website.
- Informative – content needs to add something to readers knowledge, it isn’t just an update of the latest offers or a list of products.
- Engaging – content marketing aims to engage an audience and encourage them to participate and become loyal to your business. A blog should provide material that captures their attention with images, graphs or video as well as links to other worthwhile sites.
In order to develop this quality of content, and produce it at regular intervals, requires time and resources. However many advocates of inbound marketing strategies would say that the returns on investment are much higher than traditional outbound marketing and advertising campaigns. The easiest way to develop this level of content is to build a content strategy.
Developing a Content Strategy
A content strategy can be as simple as a plan for two or three posts such as the one shown in the screenshot below.
In this very simple content strategy you can see that 3 posts have been planned. The content follows a theme and as well as that the posts are also connected to older posts, that have already been written and published on the site. This plan enables the writer to research the material on a theme for three posts at a time rather than only one.
The plan can also include page or internal links to be used, external links and key social media sites through which the post will be promoted.
The same plan could also be used to prepare press releases or social media statements which could be built around a keyword or theme.
Building links is an important part of content and inbound marketing. It helps to show search engines that you are recognised within your sector and that other industry people consider your content worthwhile.
Obviously in order to acquire backlinks key people within your industry need to know that your posts have been written. They can be informed of this through your social media campaigns.
Individual posts are easier to share on social media than a static website because you are offering something new each time, which is more likely to get shared. The aim of most social media strategies is to increase exposure of the business or product and direct more traffic to the website.
As the post is shared on forums and social media sites and becomes ranked in google, then the aim is to encourage people to provide links to the page within their own industry blogs.
As this happens and their posts are shared with your link embedded in their article, then you get even more exposure for your work.
And so the cycle continues.
Unlike a standard advertisement, which is only viewed for as long as you are paying for it, content marketing continues to be circulated and accessed in search engines for as long as it remains on your website. Therefore the cost implications need to be considered long term rather than as a once off campaign.
A good quality blog is difficult to maintain, but the potential benefits are worth the investment. This post has provided a brief overview of what is required in blogging and some of the benefits of blogs over regular static websites. Remember in order to be effective your posts need to be;
There are a lot of other skills associated with digital marketing that content writers need to be aware of, but these can be learnt as you progress your blog. In particular search engine optimisations (SEO) skills such as learning about keywords and the design of blog content are one aspect that will need to be understood.
It is probably worth investing the time and resources into developing good quality content that can be used for years rather than relying solely on spending large sums of money on once off ad campaigns. The skills might seem intimidating to start with, but with support through industry forums and sites like this one, anyone can develop a blog site that is ranking in google and sending traffic to the main company website.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask them in the comments section below, and if you are interested in digital marketing or developing an industry blog, why not sign up for my newsletter and stay informed of all the key issues within the sector.