Monday, July 3, 2017

The Building Better Blogs Series: #3 – How Better Blogs Build Bigger Audiences

Three Phases Geared to the Novice, Intermediate, & Kick-Ass Blogger

by April Federico and Melissa Macaulay Federico, The B2B Branding Company

You’re ready. You’re more than ready. In fact, you’ve probably already posted to your blog. So, how’d it go? How many readers? Who were your readers? How many shared your post? Anyone leave comments?

If you’re like 99.999% of b2b bloggers your readership probably consists largely of members of your own company and many of your comments are probably automated spam. I feel your frustration, but this is very fixable.

Let’s start from the beginning and get you on track to gain and keep readership among your target audience.

First Things First

I hate to be a buzz-kill. But there’s no shortcut for this initial step; so, here it is: You can’t build your audience until you know your audience. And I can tell by the pained look in your eyes that you already know where I’m going with this. Customer [or Buyer] Personas.

The good news is that you don’t have to create new Personas if you already have them for your product marketing, new service development, and marcom functions. If you’re confident in those personas, they will work equally well for your blog.

If you’ve managed somehow to avoid developing customer personas for each of your market segments let me tell you two things: (1) Stop carrying this information around in your head. Everyone in your organization needs to know and understand your customers to be better at their jobs; (2) It’s not as daunting as you might think. Most marketers just need a good place to start -- like a template.

[NOTE: There are tons of templates out there, but if you’d like to try the one we’ve used and refined over many years and many clients, let us know by emailing, and we’ll send it to you.]

Get yourself a customer persona template that “fits” your needs, sit down with your team and your customer data, and complete the template. It’s a valuable exercise and I guarantee you will discover a few things you didn’t know. Believe it or not, you might even enjoy the process. You’ll certainly benefit from the results.

Armed with information about your audience you can now begin working to attract them.

Phase I – If You Don’t Do Anything Else, Please Do These Four Things

If you’re confident in your customer personas but are new to business blogging, there are three fundamental things you need to do to begin building your audience.

1. Create audience-appropriate content for your blog.
It’s important to keep your audience in mind when developing your content. So, think about your customer personas. What kind of readers does your blog target? What do they want to read? What do they want to get out of your blog posts?

Consider this: Your customers’ Sales VPs will have different priorities than your customers’ heads of HR. So, just by knowing what the demands of their jobs are you can determine how your posts can help solve their problems and help them do their jobs better.

In addition, every post must be about something they can relate to and, to top it all off, must be engagingly written, in a tone and style that is appropriate to their age, background, and the topic. Similar to your other marketing programs, your blog will not be successful if you produce lackluster content and your topics are not customer-centric.

2. When you have compelling content, publish it at regular intervals.
Plain and simple: Write well, post often, and post regularly. In a perfect world, you would aim for at least 1-2 posts per week. With publishing content recurrently comes commitment. That means writing even during the holidays and vacation season. It will be important that you set the required time and resources aside on a weekly basis if that’s your commitment. And always keep in mind: quality over quantity.

3. Whenever you publish, promote your blog post on other social media platforms (with links) and other marketing channels.

This includes sharing your blog posts to your LinkedIn page, Twitter, etc. This also includes teasing the content in any email campaigns that you do. If you send out an e-newsletter, your blog posts should be included.

4. Building a subscriber list ensures your readers keep coming back for more.
The simple blog hosting sites we discussed in #2 of this series (e.g., Wix, Blogger, WordPress, etc.) all have “gadgets” or “widgets” that you can include on your blog page that will enable visitors to subscribe to your blog. Every time you publish a new article on your company blog they automatically receive a notification of new content. In return for this service, you collect their email addresses – and not just any email addresses, but email addresses of people who need, want, and like your content; i.e., potential customers. It’s a beautiful thing.

Phase II – Beyond the Fundamentals

If you’ve already advanced beyond the fundamentals, there’s an entire world of opportunities out there for building a following. For all you folks who are not new to blogging and want to step up your game, here are a couple of ideas that you may want to pursue.

5. And speaking of visual content … include carefully chosen graphics in the body of your blog posting.
These can be illustrations, photos, and (our favorite) infographics. The reason this tip isn’t grouped with novice tips is the phrase, “carefully chosen.” Carefully chosen means professional, relevant to the content, are in keeping with your style guide, and visuals that help communicate your message more effectively. Everyone seems to think they “get” graphics. Sadly, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you don’t have access to design services, solicit a few opinions from colleagues whose knowledge of your brand, experience, good taste, and style are always reliable.

6. Spend time titling both your blog and your posts.
A drop-dead title will simply [and logically] attract more attention. In addition, it sets the tone for your blog content, giving readers a sense of what they can expect. A ho-hum title signals a ho-hum article. By the same token, a “too precious” title won’t pique the interest of b2b readers either. If your topic is trending and timely – i.e., something people are clamoring to learn about -- a straightforward, easy-to-search title will serve you well.

7. Optimize for mobile.
Simply by putting yourself in the shoes of your prospects, you can see the benefit of having a blog that is easily readable on a smartphone. But, even more to the point, Google has been ranking mobile-friendly sites higher than mobile-unfriendly sites in mobile search results since the middle of 2015.
Phase III – Gettin’ Serious

Ready to take the next step? Great! We have a few proven tactics for you.

8. Guest blogging and guest bloggers.
In marketing, we’re accustomed to forming alliances and collaborating on joint marketing campaigns. Yet, many companies are hesitant to do the same with their blog. Don’t be one of them. Identify guest bloggers who can add valuable content, and offer to guest-blog for them in return. It’s a win/win. That way you’re helping each other while gaining additional promotion you could not have achieved on your own. This includes contributing to the top blogs in your area of expertise, so don’t be bashful.

9. Get creative about sharing your content on social media. Instead of using the standard clickable icons for readers to share your posts to social media, create a click-to-tweet box using tools like Social Warfare, TweetShare, and You can generate a nice big color block, complete with a pre-composed 140-character post that auto links to the reader’s Twitter feed. All your readers need to do is click the box, view the tweet, and click to share. 

Making posts easy to share increases the likelihood that they will be shared. Also, people love the visual color block, so take advantage of this opportunity to not only capture your readers’ eyes but to give your share rate a boost. The more shares you have, the more people will learn about your blog.

10. Link like you mean it.

By linking your blog content to outside sources, you are telling search engines more about your content and helping to improve your rankings. It is also a way to build relationships with other bloggers and resources. These are called Outbound Links.

Using Inbound Links is also a best practice. When you link to your own past blog posts and pages on your website, you are reinforcing the point you’re trying to make. At the same time, you are using keywords that will improve your search rankings and drive new traffic to posts and pages that provide valuable information.

11. More is not less. More is not the new black. More is more. And more is better.The two-paragraph, 250-word blog post is not cool, it’s not pithy, and it’s not informative. Me? I find them annoying and often pretentious. But don’t take my word for it.

The research shows there has been a steady upward climb in the correlation between word count and share-ability over the past three years. In 2017, our friends at HubSpot announced their findings on blog length. They found an overwhelmingly positive correlation between organic search performance and blog pages with word counts of over 2,250.

12. Keywords. Keywords. Keywords.
In real estate, location is paramount. The equivalent, when it comes to online initiatives, is keyword strategy. This success factor tracks right back to your original goals for your blog. We all blog to drive traffic. Traffic is dependent on search rankings. Search rankings are dependent on well-used keywords.

BLOGGERS BEWARE: This is not the same as keyword stuffing and writing content around high performing keywords. Determine your Keyword Strategy, stick with it, and you’ll be fine.

This is such an important tactical element in gaining a following for anything online that we will devote an entire article to keywords later this summer. But let me leave you with these two important guidelines:
  1. Make sure you use keywords that are 100% relevant to your topic and audience.
  2. The best keywords are long-tail keywords, which are actually phrases of three or more words.


And, on that note, here we are, at the conclusion of another installment in the “Building Better Blogs” series. The fourth article in this series will talk about best practices in content development. So, stay tuned for #4 - Creating Compelling Blog Content: A Recipe for Secret Blog Sauce.

What Are Your Thoughts?

We truly hope you’re finding value in these articles. But we realize we’ve hardly covered every detail and contingency in this single post. So, we welcome and encourage your questions.

We’d love to hear from you and invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below. In addition, nothing is more instructive that personal experience. Have some tips and tricks to share?