A business blog is a proven way to stay top of mind in social media, generate new sales lead, and establish your personal or brand authority. That is, if you do it right.
Unfortunately, a lot of people do it wrong. That could be one reason for what one writer called a worrisome drop in the number of Fortune 500 companies with public-facing blogs. That number dropped from 34% in 2013 to 21% last year, according to research by University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research. Businesses are moving from blogs to visually rich platforms. For instance, Instagram posted a double-digit increase (13%) in usage among the Fortune 500 firms between 2013 and 2015.
Personally, I think businesses interested in long-term success should have both a robust social media program and a corporate blog — but only if they are willing to do the work required to get them both right. Here are 10 ways to increase traffic – five common mistakes to avoid, plus five best practices to follow. With all 10, you can improve your blog’s performance quickly with relatively minor changes.
Five Business Blogging Mistakes to Avoid
Post sporadically, whenever you have time.
Creating new content isn’t easy, and it can be a challenge to set and stick to a schedule. But updating your blog whenever you have time is a sure way to get poor results. The more often you post, the more likelihood you have or attracting and keeping visitors.
Of course, it’s better to post high quality, search-engine optimized content less frequently than to post poor quality content that’s not written for the search engine “bots” more often. Create an editorial calendar to plan your blog posts, so you can work on them when you have time, but post at a consistent, scheduled time.
Post content that’s trending on Twitter or Facebook.
Trying to be “current” or “trendy” only works if your business is trendy or current – fashion, entertainment, or a lifestyle business (like a bar or restaurant) might need to follow trends. Other businesses, especially those in the business to business (B2B) space need to blog about issues that are important to their customers.
This week, with the death of entertainment icon Prince, a number of brands including Cheerios, showed just how badly they could fail trying to be “trendy” or current by linking their brand to the outpouring of grief for the entertainer. Focus your efforts on the business purpose behind your blog, and don’t get sidetracked by current events unless those events directly affect your business.
Create a list of potential topics that relate to the keywords your customers are most likely to use in searches, and stick to content that positions your business within those categories.
Post short articles heavy on photos or graphics.
Graphics and photos are great – but for the search engines to index your content and consistently find you, you need keyword optimized text and images and graphics that are appropriately tagged so the search engines can find your content.
Blog posts that are more than 300 words in length, with photos that include a title, SEO-optimized caption, alternative (Alt) text, and a file description, are much easier for the search engines to find – now and in the future
Post only articles that don’t sell your products or services.
Some people blog because they want to be writers, and they work hard to write copy that is “non promotional”. While you don’t want every single post on your blog to read like a sales pitch, if you don’t promote your own products and services in your blog, why are you blogging?
It’s important to strike a balance between informative, interesting copy that people want to read and copy that helps you reach new customers and make new sales.
Post only articles targeted at your best, most knowledgeable customers.
One of the worse mistakes a business blogger can make is to write articles that are too complex for new readers – or too simple for their experienced, knowledgeable customers. As with the amount of promotional copy, there has to be a balance.
For example, if you are blogging for a company that helps companies secure their wireless devices, a certain percentage of your audience will be experienced IT security professionals — and others will be line of business managers concerned about security but don’t know all the acronyms and jargon. So your blog post should mirror your customer base — if 60% of your customers are specialists in one area, then 60% of your posts should cater to them, and the other 40% should cater to prospective customers those new to the profession, or those who aren’t as technically savvy.
Five Ways to Improve Your Business Blog’s Results
Write great headlines that attract readers.
We’ve all seen the “click-bait” headlines. The ones that make you stop and think, “What? This I HAVE to see.” A business blog doesn’t have to use over-the-top headlines to attract readers. But it does have to give people a reason to click on the link.
For instance, the editorial calendar for my blog reminded me to write a post called “Best Ways to Improve Your Business Blog”. Before I posted the article, I renamed it to 10 Ways to Attract More Readers to Your Business Blog Almost Overnight. It worked – you’re reading this post, aren’t you?
The goal of the headline is to give readers (and search engines) a reason to click on your blog. Use the H1, H2, and H3 tags (which are built into most blogging platforms like WordPress) to improve results. Headlines should use strong action verbs whenever possible. If you haven’t done so already, download and use the SEO plug-ins available for your blog — it will help, a lot.
Promote old content as well as new content.
One of the best ways to draw new readers to your business blog is to proactively link new content to older posts – and vice versa. It helps your readers learn more about a particular topic, and it helps to keep them on your site longer.
Several years ago, I wrote an article called How to Increase Your Blog Traffic: What Worked for Me that advised bloggers to avoid eye-catching graphics that detract from the text, with an example of a bad mistake I made when I first started this blog. Why talk about that here? It’s an example of promoting old content in a new blog post, using what Google calls “natural links” – that is a link that is part of the article, rather than a footnote or list of links at the bottom of the article. If you click on the link to the old post, you’ll find a link to this newer article as well.
Share your content in social media – repeatedly and often.
If you’re like most business bloggers, when you finish writing your article, you use the “Share on Social Media” function built into your blogging platform to post the blog’s headline and URL on Facebook, Twitter and (sometimes) LinkedIn. If that’s all you’re doing to promote your blog, you’re missing out on the most valuable, free tool you have to promote your blog.
One of the things most people believe is that it’s wrong to repeat your tweets. Most Twitter scheduling software (Bufferapp, HootSuite, etc.) actually have built-in filters that block you from repeating tweets. But one of the most successful business Twitter users ever, former Apple executive Guy Kawasaki (1.47 million Twitter followers), and one of the most successful celebrity Twitter users, Star Trek alumni George Takei (1.81 million Twitter followers) each repeat every tweet four times a day. And each posts 10-12 links to each and every new piece of content So should you.
Why? Because Twitter (unlike Facebook and Pinterest) doesn’t archive tweets in someone’s news feed. Your followers see only tweets that are “scrolling by” when they’re actively on Twitter. If you post your tweet at 7 a.m., and I don’t log onto Twitter until 9 a.m., hundreds (if not thousands) of tweets are probably between the top of my news feed and your tweet. So repeating the tweet at different hours of the day will give your followers a better chance of seeing your links.
A friend of mine works for a company that was opening a new restaurant in the Bay Area a few years ago. She offered the first 10 people in San Francisco who retweeted a particular post a free meal for four (worth about $250) – and not a single person claimed the prize. Why? Because she forgot the time difference, and posted her tweet at 7:30 a.m. Central time (5:30 a.m. in San Francisco). Even though her company had over 25,000 followers in the Bay Area, not a single one of them saw her post. Don’t make a mistake like that – repeat your tweets.
I use Bufferapp to schedule my tweets. The service is free (for a single twitter user name and 10 tweets scheduled at a time) or very low cost (for unlimited tweets), and allows you to pre-load tweets and schedule them to post at the optimal time. The service also predicts when the best times for your tweets will be.
When I create a new piece of content, I write 10 versions of a tweet for it, plus one “long-form” social media post for Facebook, Reddit, and LinkedIn. Then I use Bufferapp to schedule the tweets, and post the others manually. (Buffer does manage other social media sites as well, but I just prefer to do those manually – I use it to schedule all social media posts for a couple of clients, however.)
Be consistent – but not too consistent.
It’s important to be consistent with your business blog, so people learn what to expect from you. If your primary topic is information security, don’t suddenly throw in an article about your pet poodle – unless you used your dog’s name as your security password and got hacked. (In that case, it might be an interesting object lesson for your readers.)
Posting at the same time, on the same day of the week, at regular intervals, is a blogging “best practice”. It helps people know when to expect new content, and if you’re good at what you do, they’ll be on the lookout for it.
But, as the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote nearly 200 years ago, avoid foolish consistency. Not every post has to be the same length. Not every photo has to be in the same place.
Mix up your blog posts to avoid falling into a rut. Include things like presentations from Slideshare, videos, infographics, guest posts, interviews, and posts of different lengths and types.
Include a clear call to action if you want to drive sales.
What role does your blog play in your sales process? This blog plays no part in a sales process – I’m semi-retired except for a few board posts and some consulting. But if your business blog is supposed to help you position your brand, drive sales, and promote your thought leadership, it’s critical for you to understand what role your blog plays in your sales process.
And it’s even more critical to let your readers know what action you want them to take. Most business blogs pull visitors from social media, email marketing, and the web (via links and SEO). Once they’re on your blog, where do you want them to go next? To your website to get more information about a product? To a landing page to download longer content or access a special offer? To an online store where they can make a purpose?
Don’t make them search for a place to buy a product you mention in your blog. For example, if you’re publishing a blog about the best new fantasy novels of the year, use a clear call to action such as: “Click here to buy author P.N. Elrod’s fabulous steam-punk novel The Hanged Man, from the ‘Her Majesty’s Psychic Service’ series. It’s my pick for the best new fantasy title of the year.” (Seriously — buy my friend Pat’s wonderful book — it really is fabulous!)