Blogging is hard. Damn hard.
And, not to be the bearer of bad news, but blogging as a business is even worse. In fact, even seven years ago, Technorati estimated that 95% of all blogs were outright failures, victims of abandonment by their creators.
Because day after day, week after week, post after post, to have a business blog, you need:
- Buy-in from your team
- Ideas for articles
- A content calendar to maintain consistency
- Optimization to ensure real-world ROI
These needs can be daunting, especially in a post-apocalyptic blog world. The zombie hordes are at your door.
So, to help you survive when good intentions fail, I not only identify those five basic needs of a blog, but detail a rich list of resources to help you address them.
1. Your blog needs buy-in
Your first and most basic need is buy-in from your team – designers, developers, writers, and naturally, higher-ups – who are willing to invest their time and/or money.
So how do you get buy-in?
Show ’em the numbers
We want to see exactly how much time or money will be saved or what kind of results should be expected from a particular business activity. When these numbers are lacking, investment falls sharply.
Thankfully, blogging is hands down one of the most traffic-boosting, lead-generating, bottom-line-focused content delivery platforms. I recently put together this list to quantify the top five benefits of blogging for a client who is about to launch a blog of its own. Blogging:
- Builds trust – Over and above TV advertisements, search-engine ads, and online banner ads, information in blogs is trusted by a whopping 81% of consumers.
- Improves your SEO – Companies that blog receive 97% more inbound links and 434% more indexed pages than a company without a blog.
- Boosts your traffic – Building a base of 21 to 54 articles boosts traffic by an estimated 30%.
- Generates leads – B2B bloggers generate 67% more leads over their non-blogging counterparts.
- Closes sales – 82% of companies that blog daily acquired a customer using their blogs, as opposed to 57% of marketers who blog only monthly. And lastly, 67% of U.S. customers have made a purchase based on a blog post.
Make it about passion
The second key to securing internal buy-in is passion. Dale Carnegie was right:
Image source: Aaron Orendorff
Naturally, this means building your blog around your business ethos: its loves, core values, and driving principles. But you also need to use your blog to give voice to your team’s passions, especially as individuals.
“In any language, on any continent, in every country, those speakers who genuinely express their passion and enthusiasm for the topic are the ones who stand apart as inspiring leaders.”
2. Your blog needs ideas
Inspiration is a funny thing. Often it comes unexpectedly. Being “struck” is delightful … but over the long haul you can’t count on the occasional muse. Blogging as a business demands a tried-and-true system for generating ideas.
You can start with the members of your team. Playing to their passions will unearth a host of ideas. But what happens when you run dry? Here are five tools to help:
- MyBlogU – Free online platform allows you to brainstorm with other content creators as well as to conduct group interviews. Both tools are fantastic for taking a big idea and not only testing its validity, but also breaking it down into bite-sized blog posts.
- Quora – Wouldn’t it be nice if your blog answered the questions people are already asking? This crowd-sourced website can help lead you to the types of questions that real people are asking. Plus, being a regular contributor on Quora builds your authority, engagement, and traffic.
- Google Trends – See the frequency and popularity of Google searches related to your topic and test the subject with Google Trends. In addition to giving in-depth search history information, Google Trends also keeps your finger on the day-to-day pulse of your audiences’ interests.
- Buzzsumo – Sometimes an idea just needs to be refined. Buzzsumo invites you to enter a topic or a URL in its search box and then displays a wealth of information. Great for research, Buzzsumo provides backlinks and shows the content that performs best on social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google Plus).
Oh, and one more free tip – Steal. Every book you read, blog you visit, podcast you hear, or event you attend is rich with ideas for content. So keep your eye out for “aha” moments and always write them down.
3. Your blog needs a calendar
Speaking of writing things down … If you think your business blog can survive flying by the seat of its pants rather than following a well-organized content calendar, it won’t. Don’t even try.
Start your calendar process by looking at the year ahead. Pencil in the big dates: launches, retreats, events, and deadlines.
Then decide how often content will be posted. It’s essential to post consistently on either a weekly or biweekly basis.
Next, take out your list of ideas and roster of team members, and assign topic and person to specific months.
Lastly, get detailed. Content Marketing Institute’s exhaustive checklist is a phenomenal starting point. Remember, psychologically the more visual the content calendar is, the less its perceived level of difficulty, and the more likely your team is to stick with it.
For each blog post entry on the calendar, consider including:
- Basic idea
- Preliminary titles
- Target audience
- Blog categories
- Meaningful links
- Draft date
- Post date
- Promotion: email, syndication, and social media
- Call to action
That’s quite a list, so if you’re just starting out don’t be afraid to keep it minimal. As you use your content calendar, additional categories will be added naturally.
Be sure to create a repeatable and disciplined promotion checklist as part of your content calendar. I’ll say more about using email in No. 5, so for now let’s focus on social media.
Buffer is hands down the simplest and most efficient tool for social media management online. But a B2B social media management tool like Oktopost is equally essential. It allows you to not only manage content and promotion across your team, but it integrates with third-party enterprise platforms you already use like Salesforce and Marketo. By pulling your promotion and analytics into one app, you get a serious advantage on optimizing your blog.
4. Your blog needs content
Let’s not overlook the obvious: You need content. And not just any words. Valuable, helpful, genuinely engaging, shareable words.
Consumers aren’t interested in traditional interruptive marketing anymore. They want to learn. They want to discover. So how do you create killer content?
Be informative. Be unique. Keep it clear, concise, and compelling. Let your reader know right off the bat what to expect and what the payoff is. Use the resources listed under No. 2 to optimize your titles, headlines, and targeted keywords for your audience.
A workable template for creating engaging and consistent content – especially with team members – starts with a bulleted list of the article’s key takeaways or a numbered list of how-to steps. Then simply follow the universal three-part structure: Tell your audience what you’re going to tell them. Tell them (your list is helpful here). Tell them what you told them.
You can also check out Joe Pulizzi’s Create Content Perfection With These 5 Essential Ingredients.
5. Your blog needs optimization
Optimization comes down to one thing – testing. Real-world tests are the only way to legitimately validate your assumptions and find out what’s working and not working.
Assuming you’re not an A/B ninja or conversion rate optimization master, let’s keep this simple with the two most pivotal elements of any blog post – the headline and call to action.
Testing headlines is a process, one that starts with creating as many viable headlines as possible.
Here are a few of my favorite category-based headlines that could be used for this post:
- Pop culture: The Walking Dead Guide to Blogging as a Business
- News: Announcing the Ultimate Business Blogging Survival Guide
- Data-driven: 95% of All Blogs Fail … Will Yours?
- How-to: How to Meet the 5 Basic Needs of Your Business Blog
- Question: Do You Know How to Succeed as a Business Blog?
- List: 5 Needs Every Business Blog Has … And Exactly How to Meet Them
- Narrative: My Business Blog Was About to Fall Apart … and Then This Happened
On my own blog, I offer 5 Ways to Systematically Craft Breakthrough Headlines from Inside Your Market’s Mind. These methods all come down to what Eugene Schwartz called your market’s “state of awareness” – your audience’s understanding of both its desire and your product.
Next, you’ll need to select two and then pit them against each other using an A/B testing service.
For help supercharging your existing headlines, Portent Title Maker is an excellent tool. It takes a general subject to a concrete title in one fell swoop. Or if you have a headline, Portent will teach you how to make it stronger.
Another phenomenal way to test your headline (as well as your CTA) is to A/B your email campaigns themselves. Compare your email open rates based on subject lines and your click-through rates on your calls to action to get immediate data on what content is truly compelling.
Calls to action
Calls to action are the holy grail of online marketing. And they are absolutely crucial to the success of your business blog.
Why? Because readers don’t pay the bills; revenue does.
Start with the end in mind. Quantify clear conversion goals for your blog such as:
- Lead generation
- Social shares
- Clicks to your product pages
- And – of course – sales
Select one goal for each blog post. Singularity is key because the entire post must revolve around the call-to-action goal.
Test your CTA placement – header, in-line, sidebar, or footer; its copy – the offer itself; and its design – color contrast, size, etc.
Optimizing your CTA doesn’t need to be excruciating. One of my favorite automated CTA optimizers is TrenDemon. By identifying your site’s most lucrative pathways and engaging your customer with recommendations and custom CTAs (see image below), your visitor’s next step to becoming a buyer dramatically improves.
Image source: TrenDemon
How dramatically? According to a few of TrenDemon’s case studies, conversions from existing content and traffic increase between 150% to 400%. You can read more about the specifics in this case study that produced a 247% lift in sales.
Another stellar resource for optimizing your call to action is GetResponse’s Landing Page Optimization Guide.
Success, not just survival
It’s true. The business blogging odds are stacked against you. But the success – not just the survival – of your business blog comes down to these five basic needs:
Don’t let your business be one of the 95% of failed blogs. Get started today and let us know about your own most valuable resources in the comments.
Join Aaron Orendorff at noon (EDT) May 5 as he talks email marketing as the featured guest for #CMWorld Twitter Chat.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
Other posts by Aaron Orendorff