Business blogs are an effective strategy to grow sales leads, speak to your customers, and establish yourself in your industry. Here’s how to start.

Content marketing has been widely accepted for a while now as a proven strategy to draw in more web traffic and raise search engine rankings. However, for many businesses just starting to adapt their marketing strategies to the digital age, knowing how they should use their business blog is still a challenge.

Blogs are not effective when only used as a PR mouthpiece. They’re also no good when they only ever provide low quality fluff. And if your content isn’t written well and engaging, it’s not likely to draw much in the way of attention—or readers.

However, running a successful blog for your business isn’t a mystery, either. In fact, creating a high-quality blog is possible for any business by following these steps.

1. Research your intended audience to learn about what is valuable to them.

First and foremost, know your audience. Many businesses get off on the wrong foot by writing to their peers rather than their consumers. This isn’t necessarily wrong, and we’ll come back to it before we wrap up here. It’s simply not as useful from a lead gen and SEO standpoint.

Instead, get to know your customers. Find out what their lives are like, how they use your product, and how your product fits in with the lives they want to lead.

2. Run an audit of competitor blogs or other thought leaders in your industry.

Once you’ve gained a sense about what your customers want, it’s time to get content ideas for specific posts. Coming up with inspiration is difficult, so here’s a trick to help you out while also keeping tabs on the competition.

First, compile a list of relevant blogs in your industry. Then, check your competitor websites to see if they’re running a blog. Save those link to a “favorites” folder in your browser of choice, and whenever you’re low on inspiration, take a look at what everyone else is talking about and see if you have a take of your own.

3. Determine the main content categories that you’ll be writing to.

Another thing that helps your blog find focus is to write to specific content areas. This also ensures that you don’t neglect a key portion of your audience. For instance, you may serve several different verticals, or you may offer a range of services. By using these to organize the content areas of your blog, you ensure that you don’t write entirely about one range of services and neglect the other.

In other cases, you may find that your audience is interested in several specific topics. Organizing your categories to be topic-based can draw readers towards those areas of interest. For example, if you were a board game company, you might run a blog where topics included general game theory, strategy for specific games, game night ideas, and even ways to combine your board games to great a new Frankenstien experience for die-hard fans. (Arg, I want to write that blog now.)

4. Research keywords to inform your content strategy.

The next stage of your research is more technical. Keyword research involves using a keyword tool to identify words and phrases that have a high search volume within your industry. Many of these may already be obvious to you, but those tends to be the high-value terms that are hard to compete for.

However, there’s always some low-hanging fruit out there that you could rank for with some more targeted posts, and even the high-value terms are achievable if they can be used as part of a longer phrase.

5. Write long-form content that fully answers audience questions.

All these steps are easier said than done, but this one more comically than most. What to write valuable content? Well, at a certain point, you just have to go write valuable content.

That said, there are a few traits of high-quality content that you should be aware of. First, it should be engaging and well-written. Your intern can’t write your company blog—unless they’re an unusually savvy writer who has picked up on the nuances of your business at high speed and learned to communicate those to your customers in an effective way, in which case hire that person immediately. But most of the time, you need a qualified writer, or you’re going to end up with blog content that will not reflect well on your business.

Next, your blogs should be thorough. No one wants to read a half-hearted answer to a question they’ve gone out of their way to Google. Thorough answers usually mean long posts. But having said that, there’s a caveat…

6. Organize your blogs using headers and structured content.

Organic traffic will find your blog because they’re searching for something. They’re more likely to come to your site if you’ve written a long, informative piece of content. However, they may not want to read the whole thing—which is fine.

Most online readers prefer to skim content. They may read the opening paragraph, then scroll down reading headers as they go, and only stop at the sections that contain the information they’re looking for. Along the way, they’ll still absorb some of your content—just not every word.

In the past, the short-form content theory suggested that it would be better to split a long post like that into a series of smaller posts. However, content research has shown this doesn’t work as well. Reader One of this post might skip the opening paragraphs, read the points about audience research more thoroughly, and then skip the points about content creating. Reader Two might take the opposite approach, skipping the research but reading the content. Both have come for the same information, but what they read will depend on what they already know and what they need answered.

Organizing your blogs with headers, lists, bullet points, and other structured content will help readers find what they’re looking for faster.

7. Voice your perspective on relevant industry topics.

Finally, while you’ll spend most of your time writing to your consumers, every now and then you’re going to want to make a positioning statement that is as much to your peers as it is to your customers. These are usually brand pieces, where you’re talking about the vision you have for the way things should be done in your industry.

It would be like Netflix writing a manifesto on how to offer the best streaming service, or Apple making the case for their UI design principles. Not every blog piece can be a lecture on The Way Things Should Be Done, but when you’ve got a strong piece to say, your blog is a great place to say it.

Once you’re done, share your blogs over social media and via email newsletters.

So that’s how you write content for your business blog that will actually have value to your readers. If it sounds like a long and involved process, trust us, we know. In fact, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that this is one of the primary services we offer our clients.

Having laid it all out there, you can see that there’s no magic button to press to get good content. Just a lot of hard work coming from people who care about what they’re doing and won’t cut corners to get the job done.

But there is one final step to this whole process that will hugely affect the impact of your blogs and help them do more for you than just publishing them to your website. And that’s content distribution.

Blogs are fantastic because they can be repurposed time and again. You can share them to your social channels, send them out in email newsletters, and even organize them into help documents or FAQs for your customers.

It does take a lot of work. But when you put in the work, the result will have value to your customers, which will in turn bring value back to your business.

Published 03/14/20 by Laura Lynch