Content marketing’s interest among the business community is reaching all-time highs. The starting point for most companies is with a company blog. By starting a blog companies are able to demonstrate deep industry knowledge and provide value to potential customers long before they are ready to make a purchase.
We know that 57% of the sales process is done before a customer even contacts a business. So whether your company likes it or not, you’re being judged by customers by what kind of presence you have online.
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What Value Will You Provide and To Whom?
Now before any pen hits paper, or fingers hit keys, it’s essential to clearly outline what your ideal reader looks like. Seriously, write down this fictional character, this is who you will be writing for – no one else. It’s better to make your content for a select consumer base other than trying to please everyone. Often when authors try to please everyone, they please no one and they produce average content.
If you write a post that solves one person’s problems or provides value to them, they will share the post with people in their circle who have similar pain points or would benefit from the information. This is how you build your blog army, one-by-one, until you’ve amassed enough people for some virality to take place with your articles.
Yes, blogging and content marketing as a whole are on the rise. But with increased popularity comes increased competition for consumer attention. Because of this, it’s important to set realistic expectations around blogging. It should be seen as something that is going to pay off in 12-18 months+, not next week. If you’re expecting to write a couple posts and then see profits soar, then I hate to break it to you, but you’re blog is going to fail.
Rand Fishkin has a great breakdown of this in one of his Whiteboard Friday presentations (below).
As a starting point, don’t focus on the total amount of reads your content gets, rather look at the amount of people who come back to read more than one piece of content (return visitors). As a good goal, shoot for 10% of people who see your content to come back.
How To Set Up A Company Blog
What Platform Will You Use
If it’s your first time setting up a blog, I would recommend using WordPress as your CMS (content management system). WordPress is used by over 24% of all websites on the web. One of the major advantages of WordPress is that it’s open source, meaning the community works to improve it. There are also a ton of useful tools called ‘plugins’ which can help you with wide variety of tasks. If you find yourself with a problem on WordPress, you can almost be certain that (i) you’re not the first person to have that issue and (ii) there is a most likely a plugin that helps you solve your problem.
If you’re company is using a different web framework, ask your programmer to either set up a WordPress blog on a subdomain or give you directions on how to use the current CMS your company uses.
A common mistake to avoid is setting up your company blog as http://examplecompany.wordpress.com. When you do this you are negating any positive SEO effects the article may have on your company’s website. Instead, you’ll want to set up your blog as one of the two formats:
Either of these URL configurations will be fine for you company blog.
Make an Editorial Calendar
Next, you’re going to want to build an editorial calendar. This doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be in your Google Calendar or Outlook even. It just needs to have dates attached to topics. I would recommend blocking out time to write a blog post in your calendar and then block out an hour later in the week to publish the post and promote it. If you need some inspiration, here is calendar we use at Cave Social.
With your calendar, make sure to stay between 1-3 weeks ahead. Some companies plan out their content months in advance. I’d shy away from this strategy – it doesn’t allow your marketing efforts to be reactive, topical and flexible.
Where to Get Photos?
If your company has a license with Shutterstock, Getty or another major image publisher then you’re in good hands and will have no problem finding images. The problem, most small companies and startups cannot afford the heavy cost of photo licensing, especially in the initial phases. Fridge uses the 99 Club that’s one of the exceptions to the stock image rule, that only costs $99 for 200 XXL images.
So as an alternative, I would recommend going to Pixabay and getting totally free/licensed photos. Avoid using unlicensed photos at all costs – the last thing you want is to get stuck with a potential lawsuit from Getty images.
Should you Include Videos?
The short answer: yes.
The long answer: You should select videos which only heighten the value of your content. If a video is able to convey a point better than writing can, use it! Just remember, curating videos alone is not enough; blog posts have to be strong as standalone pieces of content first.
How Long Should Your Writing Be?
There’s no finite answer for this. The key comes down to the quality and context of the content. As an absolute minimum, blog posts should be no shorter than 1000 words and for company blogs. And there is no cap on the length of the content. If you create content around 2000-2500 words, you’ll meet the minimum SEO criterion and will be able to pack a ton of great info into the content.
However, all the research shows that content above 3000 words converts the best, and there is a direct correlation between content length and shares. There is no maximum content length, however when creating long-form content it does need to be well thought out and engaging to keep people attention. Fridge editor in chief Henry, does a great weekly webinar on exactly how to plan and create long-form content that converts.
If your content is too long, you have an increased chance of losing your reader’s attention – a big no-no.
The other thing to note is paragraph length.
It’s a lot easier to read paragraphs that are one to two sentences long, especially if targeting a younger generation. See what I did there?
Ultimately, blogging success comes from disproportionate results. What this means, is that for every hour of work, or paragraph you add to a blog post, the results on the backend are not proportionate.
If I put together a 500-word blog post on my favorite pieces of software, and it only took me 1.5 hours to write, edit, and add graphics, I can expect 100-200 reads. However, if I spend 3 hours on the content, add in screenshots, do my research on the topic, and edit thoroughly, that blog post is better set up to receive thousands of views.
Remember: 2X the effort can yield 5-10X the results.
How Should You Choose Headlines?
Brian Clark of Copyblogger insists that you spend as long as you did writing the piece as you do on creating the headline. Now, I wouldn’t say that’s necessary for when you’re just starting out, the key will be short and catchy headlines. And the truth, not all will be home runs, some will be brutal. That’s just the name of the game with blog writing – genius doesn’t strike every time.
If you’re stuck on a title, head to buzzsumo.com and type in your topic, from there you can see the posts on your topic which have performed well on social media. Or you can use a cheaper alternative that does the same thing as BuzzSumo called TrafficFresh to help with this. And there is also a great headline analyizer from CoShedule that can be helpful to refine and improve your headlines ideas.
If you feel like a piece has underperformed, set a reminder in your calendar to republish the blog post with a different title.
Quick tips for headlines:
- People love numbered lists, ie. “11 Pieces of Software Every Business Needs to Elevate Their Marketing Efforts”
- Cut out unnecessary words – the most common word to drop is, “that”
- Leave something unanswered, “Can You Guess What the Best Software is For Online Businesses?”
After all of these steps, you should have the tools to start your company blog. Remember, although a blog takes some time to get going, once it’s receiving traffic, it’s one of the best marketing tools you can have.