So you’ve realized the obvious benefits and contemplating on starting a blog for your business? Great! You’re on the right track.
Creating relevant content is now an essential part of any legitimate marketing strategy, thanks to some major algorithm changes made by search engines in the recent years. Bottom line, if you want your page to rank well on organic search engine results pages (SERP), you have to be creating content.
One of the most effective ways to create content for your business is by publishing a corporate blog. Blogging provides your brand with an outlet to share news, impart wisdom and express opinions to build authority, trust and most importantly, a relationship with your target audience.
Yes, a corporate blog could be great for your brand, but don’t be too quick off the blocks to begin with. Business blogging can be a pretty complex task, especially when you’re just starting out. There are a bunch of factors needing consideration that will dictate both the content and the context of your posts.
Here’s a list of 10 key questions you should ask yourself before starting a corporate blog:
1. What is the primary goal of the blog?
Business blogs are established for a variety of reasons, be it to express brand identity, to build credibility, to humanize a brand and connect personally with audience members or to facilitate stronger inbound lead generation. There really isn’t a wrong answer when it comes to defining the goal of your blog, even if you’re just doing it to impress your mom. In reality, you’re probably starting a corporate blog for a number of reasons, but you can’t simply define your goal as “all of the above”.
There has to be a primary goal that you’re setting out to accomplish and it needs to be clearly defined. Not that you can’t have multiple objectives, but choosing one or two that you can focus on will really help you determine the best way to go about accomplishing them. If your blog’s main goal is to generate more traffic to your website, focus on that and consider other accomplishments as a nice bonus.
Once you’ve got your principal objective in mind, you can start to break it down into specific, measureable timeframes (SMART) starting with long-term goals like “I want to make $50k monthly from my blog”. Think about what it would take to get you there and break it down further until you get a good idea of what you should be doing. By the end of the breakdown, you should have set out weekly or even daily objectives.
2. What topics/subjects should we be posting about?
I’m assuming you already have a target audience in mind so you should leverage that. If you don’t have a clearly defined target audience, I would advise you to establish a basic marketing strategy before even thinking about starting a blog. Your time could probably be better spent there.
This is one of the most important things you need to think about before you begin writing. Do you know what topics your target audience enjoys reading about most? If the answer is no, you’d better start finding that out. Do some keyword research, find out what companies in similar industries are posting and join relevant communities to discover what people are talking about. Your blog has to provide some form of value to your audience to be successful, so is it going to be useful or entertaining?
When it comes to deciding what to write about, get input from as many sources as possible. Get insight from your employees, partners and others within your company, they’re interested in your mutual success so they’ll be glad to help. Ask the experts, every industry has them. Find them on social media and other professional networks and forums, their insight will be invaluable. Don’t be afraid to ask your current customers as well, you’ll be surprised to find out how willing they are to share what makes them happy.
Keep in mind that you should avoid topics that are irrelevant to your industry but at the same time, avoid writing solely about your company. You don’t want to be boring people to sleep.
3. How much time and effort are we willing to devote towards the blog?
Answering this question will help you determine how often you’ll be posting and give you a rough idea of how long your post are going to be. Of course, this is also dependent on your target audience and what their content consumption habits are. You should always cater to what your prospective readers want. If they like frequently reading small nuggets of information at a time, post three to five hundred word articles daily. On the other hand if they like reading comprehensive educational articles from time to time, you should be posting three to five thousand word articles perhaps once a week.
Another thing to think about is who will be managing the blog on a regular basis. Will you outsource a writer? Will you hire a writer in-house? Will you do it yourself or delegate the task to other personnel in your company? Writers can be great, but good ones can also be costly. Alternatively, delegating the task could be more cost-effective, but could also have a negative impact on the quality of the content, unless you’re lucky enough to have a great writer in your team. In the end it all depends on how much effort, time and resources you’re willing to invest in the development of your blog, so make an educated decision.
4. What are some successful tactics being used by competitors?
One of the easiest (and most effective) ways to leverage working ideas for your corporate blog is to scope out the competition. See what practices they’ve successfully implemented, these ideas could range from topics, design heuristics, buzzwords or writing style. The best part about a competitive analysis is that you can already determine which ideas work to engage your target audience, so you won’t have to waste time on the ones that don’t.
The need for competitive intelligence is critical, not just to ascertain best industry practices but also to learn from potential mistakes that others could be making. There are a bunch of tools that can help make this process a whole lot easier, namely Buzzsumo, Ahrefs and Moz. These tools will save you endless hours when figuring out what content is getting the most shares and audience engagement.
Keep in mind though, the idea isn’t to copy your competitors. Once you know what they’re doing, the trick is to do it better. Use comments to find out what leaders in your industry may have left out and approach the same topics from a different angle. You may be able to explain things in a way that your audience understands better than your competitors.
5. How are we going to design the blog?
The visual aspect of your blog is just as important as the content itself. Readers have an incredible amount of great content to choose from so if it doesn’t look good at first glance, you’re likely to turn visitors off instantly. Try to keep things simple and make good use of white space. If your blog is too cluttered or complicated, you could distract readers from the content or worse, make it hard to digest.
Studies show that blogs making use of visual content such as images, videos and infographics, tend to do better at creating a compelling message. HubSpot discovered that visual content is more than 40x more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. So if you’re choosing not to incorporate visual content in your blog, you’re pretty much shooting yourself in the foot.
6. What platform are we using to publish the blog?
There is an assortment of platforms on which to publish your corporate blog, both free and paid. The question you need to ask yourself here is “Which platform will ensure that I can meet my objectives?” You can make everything completely customizable by building your own content management system to publish the blog, but this can be a complicated task and can end up costing an arm and a leg.
The easier (and cheaper) option is to either publish your blog on an existing platform like Blogger, or to post on your own domain (company website) using an integrated off-the-shelf content management system like Wordpress. The benefit of these platforms is that you don’t need much in the way of technical knowledge to manage your content effectively. However, these options can limit your blog’s customizability in terms of design. In the end, you should be choosing the platform that best suits your objectives both now and in the long-term.
7. Who manages the editorial calendar?
When blogging, it’s absolutely essential to maintain a steady rhythm with regard to publishing frequency. I cannot stress this enough. If you intend on gaining a readership, you should know that a lull period in your article posting will cause readers to stop visiting your blog! You must never let this happen, which is why you should definitely implement an editorial calendar to assist with your consistency. That said, someone has to be managing this editorial calendar day in and out to keep your blog content machine running.
An editorial calendar allows you to have full visibility of upcoming topics and posting dates so that you can plan your drafting and ensure regular posting. A calendar also allows you to keep an eye on what topics you’re writing about and what topics you might need to add. Write about a variety of topics to keep your readers entertained but make sure the content is always relevant to your target audience.
8. How are we going to promote the blog?
Okay, so you’ve created the awesome content, now you can just wait for people to show up? Unfortunately no, there is still much work to be done. Good promoting practices are incredibly important because no matter how good your content is, no one’s going to read it if they can’t find it. Now is the time to leverage relevant communities so your content gets shared as much as possible. Where can you find these communities? The easy answer is social media.
Use social media to promote your corporate blog by sharing on as many social platforms as your target audience regularly uses. Just make sure that you’re sharing with the right communities and/or using the right hashtags. You don’t want to be posting where no one’s listening.
What’s even better is involving influencers and getting them to share your content with their audiences. How you accomplish that is up to you. You could provide some form of incentive or even just ask them nicely. Chances are if your content is compelling, you’ll find someone who’s willing to share it.
Remember to make full use of your blog title, it’s usually the first thing people see. Try to create link-bait posts and sticky headlines. Creating compelling headlines is crucial if you want users to click on your blog to begin with.
Lastly, make sure your blog is optimized for search and has social sharing buttons, you don’t want to be making it difficult for people to find your blog and share your content.
9. What are we going to measure? (what metrics)
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. There are plenty of metrics you can measure but only a few that really matter. Readership (views) is one of the important ones as it reflects how many people were attracted by the topic, title and description. Number of comments is also important because it shows how much your articles are engaging users to start a conversation, hopefully for the right reasons.
The last important metric to measure is the number of social shares your posts get. Social shares are like free marketing, if you can create content that is share-worthy, you’re setting yourself up for success. Continue to monitor these metrics throughout the life of your blog and take note of areas that are doing well and areas that could use improvement. This is a great way to figure out where to focus your efforts in the future.
10. Are we creating an email newsletter?
Opt-in email lists are another great way to share your blog and update readers when new posts get published. However, newsletters have evolved over the last decade or so, and you don’t want to be utilizing outdated emailing techniques.
Your email list is made up of a targeted audience who you already know is interested in your topics. You can expect to get more traffic, comments and shares from them than pretty much any other source. While it’s important to leverage their propensity to engage with your content, you don’t want to expend additional time and effort formatting and creating lots of copyright for an entirely new medium. Email newsletters can be very time consuming. Focus your energy on your blog, and use your email list to direct traffic there so your audience can interact with your content.
Capping Things Off
Now you know what to think about before starting your corporate blog. Take your newfound knowledge and start creating some awesome content for your business. You’re probably going to have more than one writer so to keep the style consistent, I’d recommend that you develop a writing style guide to help get bloggers on the same page.
A style guide is a document that indicates a set of basic writing rules that you all agree to follow so you can avoid literacy conflicts and arguments in the future. Setting things out in writing will prevent wasting time on pointless debates about things like Oxford commas.
Keep in mind that a blog is not a one-off campaign, it is a long-term marketing activity, but a post can pay dividends long after it is published. Take the time to plan out your steps, starting with your editorial calendar. It’s not going to be easy to start out with, but having a checklist can make the process more focused and automated. After a while, once you get used to writing and publishing posts, your skills will improve and creating content for your blog will become a thoroughly enjoyable activity.
Best of luck with your corporate blogging. May your posts be consistent and your content evergreen!