Friday, June 30, 2017

The Building Better Blogs Series: #2 -Getting Your Ducks in a Row

Stuff You Need to Do to Launch Your Blog

by Melissa Macaulay Federico, The B2B Branding Company --

So, you’re taking the plunge. You’ve committed to creating – or upgrading – a blog for your company or organization. One small step for the business. One giant step for Marketing. Because … congratulations! You’re now in the Content business!

To be fair, you were warned. I believe our exact words were, “… it’s not 'free,' it’s not easy, and it’s not typically something you want to hand off to a high school intern.”

What it is is a tactical program in a broader strategy called Content Marketing. Emphasis on Content. While it's possible to post relevant and valuable content created by other companies and from other sources, it is also essential that you start generating ideas for original content right away -- you'll need them.

And, like every tactical program, it requires predetermined goals, a plan, execution, and evaluation.

Set Your Goals

Getting your proverbial ducks in a row starts with setting your goals for the blog. This is simply a matter of answering this multiple-choice question: What do you want to gain from your blog?

A. More leads

B. Increased website traffic

C. Stronger connections with your customers/clients/patients/community

D. Educate your marketplace

E. Establish your organization’s expertise

F. All of the above

If you answered “F. All of the above,” you are ready to get started. Because that is exactly what smart blogging can and should accomplish for businesses. Even better, each of these goals is quantifiable. It is possible to monitor the results and use them to continuously improve the performance of your blog.

4 Steps to Setting Up the Blog Itself

1. Choose Your URL Wisely

In other words, make sure you have control of the domain name for your blog. Good formats you can use are, or, or This practice (or protocol) will help you in several ways.

First, there’s always a good chance that you may want to switch blog software services down the road. As long as you own the URL for your blog, you won’t have to change your blog address when that happens, and your followers will have no problem finding and visiting your blog.

In addition, when you host the blog as a subdirectory of your company domain name, such as, you gain a distinct advantage in search engine optimization. Whenever other blogs choose to link to your blog (this is a common practice), your entire website gains greater credibility among search engines by association, just because they share the same domain name.

2. Brand your blog.
Use the elements of your business’ corporate identity (logo, tagline, color palette, and other elements delineated in your style guide). This is not the time to give a new graphic designer free rein to create something “Totally new!” "Fun!" and “Exciting!” Make sure your blog page reflects the look and feel of the rest of your website and other collateral. You should never intentionally create any kind of cognitive dissonance among your readers, or leave them wondering if they’re in the right place.

Many businesses also like to name their blog, giving it a separate-but-related identity. If you decide to go that route, take the time to test your blog name with customers, partners, and folks who are not familiar with your business. This last group is important because these are the folks who most closely reflect the perceptions of future customers – i.e., the people you have yet to reach with your marketing. Your blog name should be easy to understand, easy to remember, and easy to associate with your overall brand.

3. Make sure your blog page is searchable
As you develop a following of readers, it is very likely that they will want to read past posts about other topics of interest. Do everything you can to encourage this. Every time this happens, it means you are being perceived as a credible resource -- perhaps even a thought leader!

4. There are tools to help
None of this has to be a big, costly project. You can design, brand and publish a professional blog with its own URL using your business website's existing Content Management System (CMS) or you can use one of the flexible and intuitive products created precisely for this purpose. Blogger, Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace take a lot of pain and expense out of creating blogs for businesses and institutions of all sizes and types.

Create a Content Plan (or Calendar)

Some bloggers can get up in the morning, sit down at their desk (or wherever), and just riff on anything that happens to be on their minds. That's fine if your blog is intended to be an online diary, but if you have genuine business objectives for this program you need a plan for becoming relevant to and trusted by your market.

What we're going to talk about in this post is an execution plan. (Don't get me started on Strategic Plans -- that would be a very long post). So, you could create it in a spreadsheet or the project management application of your choice.
  • Here are the things you need to include:
  • How often you want to post (daily, weekly, monthly?)
  • Events during the year that are important to your customers' businesses (back to school? tax season? holidays? vacation time?)
  • Incorporate events that are milestones for your business, (product launches, major trade shows, or user groups)
  • Build in the flexibility to weigh in on news that affects your market in real time. Relevance is a big deal in blogging.
  • Take it a step further -- use your calendar to also build in how you will support your blog posts on other social media platforms.
  • And, last-but-not-least, who's writing what?

Recruiting Your Blog Team

It is very important that you assemble a team of people to at least help write blog posts. This step will ensure that you are able to post regularly and often. Frequent posts are obviously a checkbox item in the execution of your content strategy; but, even more important, your ability to attract visitors and generate awareness are dependent on your ability to consistently develop and share new content.

Take steps at the outset to safeguard your blog from the two circumstances that most often doom new blogs:
  1. When one person must bear sole responsibility for a blog's success or failure, the blog is doomed.
  2. Similarly, when one person must spend the bulk of his/her time chasing down promised posts from other writers, the blog may limp along for a while, but it is ultimately doomed as well.
  3. It's true that "Many hands make light work ... " It's also true that unless those many hands are committed and enthusiastic about the blog, about writing, and about the subject matter, you'll end up in situation #2 -- spending most of your time trying to scrape together posts from anyone anywhere.
The takeaway from these dire warnings is this: Recruit and manage your blog team with care and consideration. There are two ways to go.

Recruit writers in-house - It's not the simplest method, but it can be the most satisfying. Again, the trick is in finding, then managing, colleagues who are serious about the project. These folks will know the company, have an affinity for the subject matter, and will be easy to connect with spontaneously.

Some folks have had good luck using a short application for interested co-workers, but most find that the fewer hurdles they place in front of volunteer bloggers the more volunteers they're able to recruit. The main thing to bear in mind is that a team of bloggers is like any other team. They require good communication, a few basic resources, a clear understanding of their responsibilities, and consistent motivation.

The downside of recruiting in-house is that every member of your team has a "day job" that will inevitably conflict with and override their commitment to the blog. Be prepared. Try to build in a Plan B for these inevitabilities.

Fill gaps with contract professionals - There are four "cons" to taking this route: (1) you have to pay professionals; (2) the less experience a professional writer has the less you have to pay them, BUT the longer it will take them to get up to speed; (3) many writers work remotely which can be "uncomfortable" for some managers; (4) most managers have no idea where to find good freelance writers, making the recruitment process stressful.

If you have the budget, the "pros" for hiring professional writers to supplement your content team can make the investment worthwhile.
  • Professional writers will submit portfolios of their work and have references, which will give you the best idea of their skill level.
  • Experienced writers know and respect deadlines -- you will not have to chase or plead with them.
  • Writers who work remotely know how to stay connected with their clients, even if their clients are not as well-versed in the process. (Many can even help you put processes in place to facilitate workflow and communications).
  • Finally, remember where you're reading this article: LinkedIn is a great place to find contractors, freelance writers, and blogging experts! You can find out nearly everything you would want to know about your candidates in their LinkedIn profiles.

What's Next?

Set your goals? Created a blog plan? Got your team? Excellent! Now, what about building your audience?

The third article in this series talks about how you can reach your targets, grow your readership, and retain your audience. Stay tuned for Part #3, which talks about practical tactics for growing your blog audience.

Share Your Experience/Ask Your Questions

Nothing is more instructive than personal experience. Have some tips and tricks to share? We also realize we’ve hardly covered every detail and contingency on this topic. So, we welcome your questions too. We’d love to hear from you and invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Building Better Blogs Series: #1 -To Blog or Not to Blog ...

by Melissa Macaulay Federico, The B2B Branding Company --

Once upon a time, businesses had an onerous decision to make. Should they take a risk, climb out on a limb, and invest in creating a website for their company? Or should they stick with the tried and true tools and tactics they’d always used? This was a tough one. I mean, who knew if this online stuff would really catch on?

Fast forward to 2017 and many businesses are still on the fence about blogging. The only difference, however, between then and now is that blogs are already widely accepted forms of content marketing, that customers expect most businesses to publish a blog, and that a myriad of tools and techniques have emerged to help marketers derive the very best return on their blogging investment.

So, why all the angst?

It boils down to the same old thing: Decision makers want to see that there is a viable business case for investing in a blog. Because, all misconceptions aside, it’s not “free,” it’s not easy, and it’s not typically something you want to hand off to a high school intern. (No offense to the growing number of industrious, blog-savvy high schoolers out there).

business blogging content marketing
Photo: Flickr

Making the Case

Boost Your Business’ SEO - Search engines respond to fresh, new content. Every new post gives Google and other search engines something to sink their teeth into. According to a well-known HubSpot study, websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links.

Increase Customer Engagement with Your Brand
-Blogging is a way to connect with visitors to your website by offering them information that has value to them, and using that content to strike up a dialog. Try posing questions in your posts or enable and encourage comments. If you are attentive to your readers’ comments (read and reply), you create affinity through a relationship of sorts. Not to mention gain better understanding of what they want and need.

Industry Leadership – You don’t have to be the head of a multi-national conglomerate to be an expert. Trust and credibility come from communicating relevant and valuable content (i.e., ideas and information). This is one place where small businesses can gain a competitive advantage over their larger competitors.

Extend Your Reach – Every blog post is an opportunity for sharing via email, social media, or [the holy grail]: Word of Mouth. Blog posts can be linked to, tweeted, emailed or discussed face-to-face by your followers and you.

What does this mean in dollars and cents?

Quiz: More readers mean more traffic, more traffic means more leads, and more leads mean more ____?____.

If you said “Sales!” you’re absolutely correct. In fact, Hubspot has reported that marketers who prioritize blogging in their content strategy and marketing mix are 13 times more likely to enjoy a positive return on investment than their non-blogging colleagues.

Your ROI will vary somewhat depending on your goals and your line of business, but here are a few stats to support the business case for blogging.

If your business is still on the fence about blogging, let’s hope this has given you a starting point for planning and launching your company’s blog. There’s no doubt that the bottom line potential for a well-managed blog is real and quantifiable. But, take careful note, the most important words in that sentence are “well-managed blog.”

Your efforts and investment will live or die on how well you plan and execute your blogging tactics. Over the next few posts, this series will tackle what “well-managed” means in terms of real actions. So, stay tuned for more, and don’t be bashful about sharing your questions and experiences.

Next up in our Building Better Blogs Series: “Getting Your Ducks in a Row - Resources Required for Launching Your Business Blog”