Blogs have been around for nearly twenty years by now. Starting from the first blog ever to hit the web – Links.net (it’s been around since 1994), to the roll out of Blogger five years later, to the first ever ads on blogs in 2003 with the entry of AdSense, blogs have had a colorful and often controversial history.
Check out this cool visual timeline showing the main milestones in blogging. It’s a slightly old resource, but it’s fascinating to see how many of its predictions are now absolutely true!
So moving from a humble ‘Dear Diary’ beginnings, in twenty years blogs have been transformed into an essential part of the online marketer’s tool kit. Come to think of it, in 2014, no self-respecting brand would be caught dead without a blog!
Does that mean that you have to somehow manufacture a blog and spew it out on the rest of the world? Absolutely not. The large majority of blogs on the world wide net could be called casual or hobbyist blogs, with just 14% of bloggers actually earning a salary via blogging. However, if your blog is meant to market your brand, make sure you don’t fall into this “casual blogging” trap.
Writing about your last visit to the zoo with your 3 year old simply is not going to sell your printer-copier-fax machines. Not classy blogging. Not happening.
Image Source: NRK P3 on Flickr
Your job as a marketer is to ensure that your blog is not just another hot mess of every random musing under the sun. Let your blog be a curated version of your best side than a haphazard tally of your every itch and scratch.
Here are five time-tested rules to create a classy blog that works hard for your brand, without spending a fortune in the process.
Blog = Step 1 of Content Marketing
According to the marketing mavens at HubSpot, by the end of 2013, at least 60% of all marketers had adopted Content Marketing as an integral part of their marketing strategies.
It’s all about creating valuable content that will attract potential customers to your website, gain their trust as an authority in your field, build a relationship with them over time, and eventually convert them into paying, loyal customers.
Being one of the most easily accessible and executable tools of content marketing, blogs are often considered the first step to an effective content strategy. Take a look at this simple infographic by HubSpot to get an idea of where blogging sits on the Content Marketing process flow.
Image Source: State of Inbound Marketing 2013, Hubspot
A blog has many things going for it that makes it a content marketing favorite, including:
- No restrictions on blog topics – you can blog about anything under the sun
- No length restrictions, unlike Twitter
- No entry barriers – anyone can read a blog, most blogs don’t require a visitor to sign in to proceed further
- No technical expertise required unlike traditional SEO or PPC marketing
Success is Spelt C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-T
If you’ve heard this once, you’ve heard this a million times – BLOG REGULARLY!
And for very good reason too. As per this nugget from CodeCondo:
“Blogs that post daily get 5 times more traffic and 4 times more leads than sites that post weekly or less.”
The logic behind this is pretty simple:
- More blog posts = more indexed pages on your site
- More indexed pages = more interesting your site becomes to search engine spiders
- More interest from search engine spiders = higher rank on search results pages
- Higher rank on search result pages = more traffic, more leads
Blogging might be mostly fun, sometimes easy and creatively satisfying every time, but unless your blog attracts enough daily traffic, it’s simply not doing its basic job.
Keep it Interesting and Relevant
Be honest, how many brand stories do you bother to share every day? Compare that to the unending flow of blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, and Tumblr feeds we are subjected to every minute of the day. The one giant reason that overshadows all others when it comes to sharing content online is that sharable content is interesting content.
Now, what is interesting to you may be a dead bore to your neighbor. The easiest way to maintain the ‘interesting-ness’ of your posts, would be to first create a clear demographic and behavioral profile of your ideal customer. Use this customer profile to then create content that your customers would enjoy.
Interesting content would ideally be:
- Contextually relevant to your audience profile
- Informative and educational
- Funny or outrageous
- Entertaining or gossip worthy
The gigantic social media win that Samsung scored with this year’s Oscar selfie by Ellen DeGeneres is an example of great contextual placement of a brand in a highly anticipated event and executed by an extremely popular celebrity who roped in more celebrities that made the gossip worthiness of the selfie to skyrocket off the charts.
Want to be the source of the next big viral wave in your industry? Check out this interesting article by Shopify about creating controversial blog posts to pique your readers’ interest.
Outsource if Necessary
As mentioned in the beginning of this post, your blog needs to be a reflection of your brand and all that it stands for; a personal ramble in the woods will not sell a tech product any more than a swimsuit will help you fly.
Image Source: Social 4 Retail
It’s simple. Quality content attracts quality readers. You may feel that you are in the business of running your business and posting blogs that conform to a laundry list of must-haves is beyond your capacity. That’s perfectly fine. As long as you recognize the importance of having a blog that promotes your business, you can always have someone else do it for you. It could be an employee, a team of freelancers, or even a content marketing agency that also handles other aspects of your content strategy. You can use an inexpensive web-based project collaboration tool such as WorkZone or Asana to manage the whole process.
Don’t Scrimp on Security
According to a statement by WordPress last year, 170,000 WordPress sites were hacked into. The intentions of the hackers may or may not be malicious, but a breach opened up by even an ‘ethical’ hacker can expose your content and your personal information to misuse by the not-so-scrupulous variety of hackers and online miscreants.
With the recent Heartbleed hack on major sites around the world, ensuring that your online footprint stays secure has gained prime importance. Here’s some ways in which you can ensure that your blog is not adversely affected by hacker attacks:
- Choose your blogging platform wisely. There are a ton of free and paid blogging platforms out there like WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, etc. each with their own pros and cons. Do your research and understand which one is the best fit for your business.
- Choose a strong password, change it often. Even passwords that are random combinations of alphabets, numbers and special characters may fail in the face of systematic brute attacks by hackers.
- Be careful before installing third party apps or templates. These are often created by hackers to force pop-ups, log behavioral data, and other malicious purposes. Go through app reviews or even the code in the apps before you install anything on your blog.
- Delete or rename the default ‘Admin’ account. This prevents a hacker from locking you out of your own blog by changing the credentials.
- Keep your blog version updated to the latest one available. Don’t display the version of your blog template on your site.
- Backup your blog. That’s the only way to ensure that all your hard work does not go down the drain in a matter of minutes. If your hosting service does not allow you to do that (which is rare), make sure you have a backup of your content on your desktop.
A good blog will get you eyeballs from people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say. It has the power to set you up as a thought leader in your line of work. It even has the ability to endear you, over time, to your regular readers. The one thing you blog will not do is make people buy your product the minute they land on your blog. Remember, your blog is your brand guy and not your sales guy. Expecting your blog to just sell, sell, sell is like expecting your perfume to ape an Axe commercial. Sadly, real life does not work like that!
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Tracy Vides is a content strategist and serial blogger who gives small businesses and entrepreneurs online marketing advice. Tracy's posts are featured on popular blogs such as Smedio, Tech Cocktail and Steamfeed. You can catch her <a href="https://twitter.com/tracyvides">@TracyVides</a> on Twitter any time for a quick chat.
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