Is 2018 the year you up your content marketing game? Here are a few blogging tips to get you started.
For many businesses, committing to a marketing blog is a big push. However, if you’ve been working on your content marketing for a little while now, you may be wondering how to improve your blog to see better results in 2018. Fortunately, we have some blogging tips to help you boost your content marketing to the next level.
1. Refine your topic buckets.
In the early days of writing a blog, most businesses are trying to find their footing, establish their expertise, and lay a groundwork for success. That makes sense: it takes time to figure out the key topics in your industry or the subjects you want to return to over and over again.
But once you begin to establish your rhythm, it’s time to start categorizing. You’ll probably begin to identify common topic buckets, and once you do, you can speak to those subjects more directly.
For us, our common topic buckets are things like “SEO,” “Content Marketing,” “Web Development,” and “User Experience.” That shouldn’t be any secret to regular readers of our blog, and this strategy helps us establish ourselves as authoritative voices in these fields. It also helps us rock SEO for those categories.
Your topic buckets are going to be different, but once you identify them, it will give your blog more focus—and more depth.
2. Pay attention to pain points.
One of the benefits of defining your content buckets is that they often correspond to certain buyer personas. There’s the marketing director in need of automated marketing services, for instance, or the small business owner who wants to create a better ecommerce experience. Knowing who you’re talking to helps address content to their needs.
User experience is a great example for this, because it’s such a strong pain point (at least for me). I bet we’ve all encountered websites that left a frustrating taste in our mouths due to their poor design. We couldn’t find information we needed, or it was too difficult to complete a task.
In fact, I had this happen three to me within the last week while using three different apps. In one, a chess app, I couldn’t find out how to start a game with an online challenger. The second was so full of ads that it was unusable—I uninstalled it within a few hours and was irritated enough to leave a negative review. In the third, a language-learning app, I couldn’t find out how to use a key feature from the desktop version despite several prompts from the app.
Pain points stick with us. Understanding and addressing them in your blog not only helps you empathize with your target customer, it establishes trust and lets them know you’re listening to their concerns and offering solutions.
3. Target every buyer stage.
Not everyone is going to come to your blog with the same knowledge level. Your long-term readers will be used to concepts that your new visitors might not know. And your current customers will have different pain points from the new ones you’re trying to attract. Writing to every buyer stage helps you address each of these audiences.
For those of you unfamiliar with buyer stages, they map to different steps of the buyer journey as the progress down the sales funnel. Sounding a bit too sales-jargony? It goes like this:
A customer has a pain point, but they don’t know how to fix it. Your first task is to attract these visitors, educate them about their pain points, and introduce them to the solution. In the next stage, your visitors learn more about your solution, and my even compare it to others on the marketplace. Your task is to convert them into believers in your brand.
Even at this stage, however, you haven’t closed the sale. Your visitor might want your product, believe it’s the best one on the market, but still hesitate to make the final purchase. To close them, you need to identify their final hesitations and address them one by one.
You may think your job is over, but it isn’t. Once your visitor becomes a customer, you want to retain them. You do this by delighting them with your product, with an excellent customer experience, and with future offers or services.
These four stages—attract, covert, close, delight—each need to be addressed on your blog, but probably not equally. The content funnel is often more like an hour glass, with a lot of content in the “attract” and “delight” categories, and narrower, targeted posts in the “convert” and “close” categories. You may have heard that the ABC of sales is “always be closing,” but for content marketing, you’re often playing a long game.
4. Think broadly.
One trap many businesses fall into with their blogs is trying to turn every post into a pitch. Unfortunately, many visitors dislike feeling like you’re trying to sell them something. A direct pitch is more likely to turn them away than win over their trust.
It’s OK to think more broadly. If you have an unusual or creative take on a subject, it’s likely to attract more interest from readers. And if the post seems a stage or two removed from the products you offer, remember that you’re casting a wide net. So long as it still relates to the topic buckets you categorized earlier, it’s relevant to your business.
Now, you may be wondering how you can be both broad and lumping things into “buckets” at the same time. Let me illustrate.
One of my favorite early examples of content marketing comes from French tire company Michelin. For most consumers, tires are not a particularly interesting subject to sell. So instead of selling tires, Michelin began selling destinations. If they could encourage automobilers to use their cars, they would grow their tire company by proxy.
Thus the Michelin guide was born, and as a result, Michelin-starred restaurants.
In 2018, Michelin might have content buckets labeled “tire care” or “automobile maintenance.” But they would almost certainly have ones called “road tripping” and “travel destinations” as well.
5. Don’t neglect your SEO.
Google is making it easier for searchers to find relevant answers to their queries, but the SEO’s job is far from over. Instead, it’s becoming more customer-focused, with an emphasis on understanding relevant keywords and tying searches into content strategy.
Keywords and content optimization are the grand combination of content buckets, pain points, and buyer stages. Knowing what your audience is searching for will help you define your topics, target their pain points, and write to the stage in their journey. In other words, to be a good SEO you have to be good with the technical side. But you also have to know your audience.
The more you dig into their needs, the better you will be able to write to their interests. But once you identify those subjects, you still need to optimize your posts to give Google the best chance at finding them.
6. Invest in long-form articles.
In spite of the many arguments we hear about short attention spans and lack of time, blogs keep trending longer. And for good reason. Longer blog posts garner more shares on social media, and attract more love from search engines.
While this may seem counterintuitive (who has time to read a 3000-word article?), upon closer examination it makes more sense. Short articles are often “puff pieces,” too brief to deliver any meaningful insight. Visitors can read them quickly and leave. And in so few words, there’s very little opportunity to entice a visitor to stay longer.
Longer posts, on the other hand, offer plenty of room to dig into the meat of a topic. Readers leave feeling they’ve gained something of value—usually because they have. And a long-form format gives marketers more room to make their case and link to supporting content.
So, what’s short, and what’s long?
Over the past few years, average blog length has grown to over 1000 words per post. While in the past 1000 words might have been considered long, in 2018 it’s only about average. True long-form posts are closer to the 1500—2000-word range.
If that seems like a lot, that’s because it is. And to be clear: not every topic needs that much. But even if you aim for 1000-word posts most of the time, start working in longer posts every now and then and see what it gets you.
7. Consistency is key.
Do you have a content schedule? Do you stick to it? So often, after identifying a blog strategy, businesses stumble with it comes to implementation. Maintaining a regular posting schedule means delivering great content week after week. Not everyone is able to keep up with the schedule.
Of course, it helps to have written a schedule in the first place. It’s easier to leave a thing undone if it’s not at the top of anyone’s “to-do” list. And if you haven’t committed to a schedule, it’s far to easy to let the blog slip down in the priority list.
We recommend creating an editorial calendar for your blog that has topics planned out a month or so in advance. This will give you the perspective you need to plan posts for each of your buckets that target various buyer stages and pain points. And, once you see how much you have to write about, it will be easier to get down to work.
Are you promoting your content?
Of course, once you get this content written, it’s time to promote it. If you’re not posting your blogs on social media, you’re not getting nearly the traction out of them that you could be. And that’s before you start putting dollars behind them.
Implementing everything we’ve talked about in these blogging tips is hard work. If you’ve done your job right, your blog will be of value in their own right. Make sure your audience gets to see them.