There are different blogging strategies you can follow, and there are different schools of thought here, however, in the long run, the approach that will give you the best results is to publish very high-quality articles.
Because a high-quality blog becomes trusted reference material that buyers, leads and customers use to answer questions and learn about a particular topic. This will simply never happen with a poor-quality, SEO-optimized blog.
In other words: If you put well-optimized garbage articles in your blog, you will end up attracting a large volume of garbage traffic.
Okay, by now, we know that content is the basis for all Inbound Marketing. There is a lot that has been written about how companies that blog not only get more traffic, but also get more and better inbound links. This ends up getting you more leads, business and growth.
In its State of Inbound Marketing Lead Generation report 2010, HubSpot published that:
- Companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages and 97% more inbound links
- Companies with more than 51 published blogs experience a 77% lift in median monthly leads
- Blogging at least weekly has a direct and significant impact on lead gen
Nowadays, a lot of B2B companies are catching up to this; 44% of all marketers have a documented content strategy, and 87% already use social media and blogs to some extent. The most successful ones actually treat their content as an integral part of their sales strategy and are spending as much as 39% of their entire marketing budget on content marketing.
If this much money is going to be poured into creating content, it better be focused on good quality. Blogs simply get better results (traffic and loyalty) when they are most appreciated by the buyers.
When a buyer sees your content as a valuable resource then something interesting happens:
You start earning your buyer’s trust.
And when that happens, you can market to them more effectively because all of the adversarial chemistry that exists between seller and buyer just vanishes. All of the high-pressure sales situations can be practically eliminated if your focus is to be helpful first, without caring if you sell something to them. But guess what? Your reach becomes larger, your market simply expands, your lead inflow grows and you end up actually selling more.
Your blog is your way to earn your buyer's trust when it is well thought out and put together.
Your blog is the platform you need to house all your content.
How About Investing In Prospect Development vs. Quality Content
What if your company has already made a strong commitment to sales and has spent a good bit of the budget available on a sales team that will be focused on prospect development and sales? Here is an interesting secret of great business developers and strategic account development. Prospect development NEEDS a good content backbone to be effective.
“...most salespeople think marketing is ineffective. Marketing is pushing out a ton of content, but salespeople aren’t even going to read it, she said. They need “content CliffsNotes,” which would be a way for salespeople to skim and find something that might work.”
The most effective prospect developers use high-quality, helpful content to earn the interest and trust of their targets early in the sales process. This personalized lead nurturing that prospect developers do needs to have an arsenal of good, thoughtful and curated content. Without it, the prospect developer will be forced to research his own content on the spot or spend a lot of time creating it.
For example, in B2B, a common place to start the research for strategic account development is LinkedIn; this is a professional social network where people expect to be contacted and linked to, but even in that environment, a hard-sell approach can cause a sales person to be rejected.
People expect to share things and learn from one another, so approaching a prospect by being helpful or offering a thoughtful piece of content that can help them during a conversation will be better received than a plain, "nice-to-meet-you, buy-from-me" type of message. You need to assume that prospects approached through LinkedIn are in the Awareness stage of their buying process, if they are in the buying process at all.
Now, when it comes to blogging for trust, everything matters:
- Quality and relevance of content,
- Image selection,
- Grammar, etc.
If your blog isn’t great in each one of these elements, you simply you won't be getting the results you could.
Why a Blogging Strategy Is Important
You want your leads to subscribe to your blog. This is one of the best mechanisms to connect with potential buyers, especially if you’re creating high-quality articles. So you need a blogging game plan.
Here is a brief description of what a blog without a clear strategy feels like:
“So you arrive to this blog you just came across and find that you really have no idea what you can expect from it.
I mean, who is this written for?
Is this relevant to you?
You look at the page, and you see nothing that jumps out.
You scan through some article titles to get a sense, and...hmmm, perhaps based on a few titles, you might think that it's good for you...but you aren’t sure.
Then you scroll to the categories section to see what the blog is about, but you find an endless list of buzzwords and what appear to be keywords for SEO purposes.
Lastly, disappointed or just plain frustrated, you close the page.”
This is extremely common in blogs today.
So if you want your blog to help you earn your buyer’s trust, here are some things you absolutely need to take care of:
1. Create content focused on giving tips and advice.
The one thing that’ll keep your buyers coming back is to find practical, down-to-earth advice that they can apply to their particular situations, something they can take and run with it. If you are facing the problem of, say, employee morale, wouldn't you become an avid reader of a free, high-quality publication of carefully curated content that talks just about employee morale?
Perhaps, right? You'll have to make sure that the content is written for you, which brings me to the next point.
2. Your blog is focused on a specific persona.
Your advice can only be valuable for a specific set of individuals. If you’re trying just to target everybody, of course the blog (or any other sales initiative, for that matter) just won't be effective.
Kristin Zhivago does it right, clearly stating that the content of her blog is for CEOs and entrepreneurs:
3. Have a blog title & promise.
Start by coming up with your blog title. Treat it just like if it was your own publication (in fact, it is)--what would the name of the publication be? Also, create a blog promise and show it to your readers. The blog promise is a statement that tells your buyers what they can expect to learn if they subscribe to the blog.
Conversion XL does it right, building a clear expectation for their readers:
Techport13, an IT Infrastructure consulting firm has a very simple blog promise:
4. Tidy up your blog categories.
Make sure that your categories don’t endlessly grow. Define some categories that relate to their most common problems that your buyers have and stick to them. It will make your buyers’ reading experience much better versus having 89 categories to sift through.
5. You need a friendly yet strong character.
You need to adopt a tone of voice that gives you and your company a personality. A take on things. You can adopt an authoritative position, but explain whatever it is that you are explaining with very simple language that your buyers can relate to. If you sound too academic, it just won’t connect with your readers. If you are writing from a position of "been there, done that," you can do so, but without being arrogant.
6. Support your points with facts and examples.
There’s a lot of content out there that is based on someone’s opinion. Now for certain types of topics, it could be an appropriate approach, but you need to go back to point #1.
You should adopt the goals of giving valuable and actionable advice through your blog, as well as bringing content that is useful (a more appropriate approach is to be more factual). Supporting all of your advice with research, examples and real cases is also a must. Finally, you should clearly state when you’re issuing an opinion based on limited or no data. Your buyers will respect you for that.
7. Formatting matters.
You can have all of the above, but even then, if your blog looks sloppy, even if the content is great, your buyer will think it's sloppy. The formatting and how it looks will have an immediate impact as to how your content is perceived. Make sure it looks presentable.
No weird font size and line-spacing issues please, and consider that every low-quality image you include is offensive. You either put an image there that can help your buyer understand the point you are trying to make, or just avoid the image altogether. I've seen blogs with cheesy images that are unrelated to the topic and add no value or charts that are unreadable. Remember, you’re blogging for trust, so please don't do this kind of stuff.
8. Find a writer that understands your customers’ problems.
Each blog article as a unique opportunity to answer a question from your buyers. To pull this one off, you’ll need a writer on your team who understands how your product solves your customers’ problems better than the competition.
Consider that just about any good writer can create content for your business. To achieve the level of quality that earns your buyers' trust, you need a writer who has pretty much an expert understanding of your business and your customers.
You may want to consider enticing your entire team to produce content (make sure you establish the rules of your blog content first) or hiring a student in a major that’s highly related to your business. He should also consider it a great opportunity. When it comes to selecting a writer, passion needs to come first (along with writing skills).
9. Cover topics your buyers are most interested about.
As you probably heard, Google made a pretty major update to its algorithm in 2013. Actually, Google’s been making a lot of updates, but this last one was pretty significant.
In a nutshell, Google is now a search engine that not only can give users great search results based on what users type in the search box, but also understands how humans use languge. It also praises in-depth articles and thought leadership (it recognizes experts in a particular field of knowledge).
What's the impact of all this stuff for you?
In the good, old times of SEO, it was enough to select a set of keywords and optimize blog articles for the exact match of that keyword. You keep doing this for all the keywords in your list, and that was it. You watched your page ranks go up. Now that’s not enough.
The content creation plan needs now to be built around topics of interest. For instance, you need to select a topic of interest for your buyers, e.g. "Value Engineering" or "Custom Gasket Specification," and explore all aspects of that particular topic. Then, each month, you need to analyze what kinds of topics your buyers more interested in. Do this by looking at reads, pageviews and social shares, and expand on the topics of greatest interest.
There’s no longer a disparity between the content that your customers want and the content that makes you show up in Google. Now, more than ever, it looks like these strategies are just one and the same: Now making your entire content customer-centric and valued by your buyers is not only praised by your buyers, but it’s also recognized by Google.
10. Keep a good rhythm of high-quality content creation.
Keep a consistent pace of at least two to four blog posts per month. Get to a rhythm you can sustain, but make sure you mix in some in-depth articles. These in-depth articles are not your 400-word types. These are articles so well-constructed that they give your buyer information so complete and put-together that he would almost never need to go and research somewhere else. These will be 1000-plus-word articles (2000- to 5000-plus-word articles are highly praised by Google) loaded with researched examples and supporting images carefully selected and following the structured schema.
Blogging frequently = more indexed pages
More indexed pages = better findability
Better findability = more leads
Blogging Frequently = More Leads
11. Extend the lifetime of your blog articles.
You've worked so hard to create this super-high-quality, sought-after content. Now, give it some justice by extending its lifetime through social media.
For this, you need to determine if the particular article is evergreen (it addresses a fundamental issue and will remain useful for your buyers for a long, long time) or perishable (articles where you might be giving a spin to a particular topic that’s applicable only for a limited period of time - e.g. in our case, this Google Hummingbird update).
For evergreen content, it’s recommended that you create a social-promotion campaign for a year to a year and a half; for perishable content, just determine the time period that makes sense depending on the topic. Here’s an example of the social-promotion elements for one evergreen article over a period of one year:
- 36 tweets
- 12 Google+ posts
- 1 LinkedIn groups discussion (positioning the topic as a discussion)
- 4 LinkedIn updates
- 4 Facebook posts
This applies for the company profiles and personal profiles of your team that would like to help it promoting the company's thought leadership. If you have the CEO, one marketing guy and one sales guy who want to help promote the content, this adds up to 168 first-degree opportunities to drive traffic to your blog. This is for every article. This dramatically increases the chances to get you found versus simply publishing the blog post and relying only on SEO.
To show the contrast in the two different views of the impact that content has in getting your company found by buyers on the Internet:
The traditional way businesses use their website and content is based on the assumption that SEO drives the traffic:
The traditional website view: SEO drives traffic
This is the traditional thought process:
“When your buyers have a need, they’ll search on the Internet for the solution. If you optimize your content and website for keywords related to your product, they’ll find you.
So you should put all your efforts in ranking on the top three positions of search-engine results pages, and that’s it. The job is done…”
However, for most B2B or high-ticket B2C businesses, this assumption is incomplete.
Now, this is how modern marketers view their website and content:
Your buyers are reaching you at different stages of the buying process and from all over the map. You need to seek to grow your online presence by creating a hub with high-quality content that gets published widely and deeply. This is the only way to effectively grow your top of the funnel.
The modern marketer’s view: Buyers are everywhere, and you need to be there.
Blogging can help your business. No question. For it to really work, the best approach is to blog as if your business depended on it. Scrutinize your content to make it so useful for your buyers that they get to regard you as a trustworthy, knowledgeable individual(s) who really knows his stuff.
Your blog is a representation of who your company is. If you treat it as anything less than a cherished publication of the best you have to teach and share, you’ll not get the results you could be getting with it.