What’s the value of a well-planned blog strategy?
Attract leads – if you don’t have a blog strategy, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to attract leads, and get higher rankings in Google.
Support your sales process – without a strategy in place, your content creation lacks purpose. Ultimately, your blog content should be serving your sales funnel. For instance, I have created blog content that sales teams then send to prospects to give additional information through the sales process. Blogs are also an integral part of product and feature launches–bringing in even smaller features can get people clicking through the rest of your website and onto those sales pages later on.
How might blogs for different audiences look different?
Your blog should reflect your product – e.g. a self-service product equals a DIY crowd, since a lot of the work falls on the user. In this case, your blog should help people prepare to acquire new related skills or provide step-by-step instructions for certain things–whether it’s related to your product or just related to their job in general.
For enterprise, the sale usually involves cross-departmental teams, and you’d want your blog to serve that. You need to talk about both the user’s individual needs, and also that cross-departmental alignment and bringing teams together, both using your software and for the other projects they might be doing.
Create content “pillars” for each target audience – the simplest way to do that in your blog design is to group content “for this group”, “for that group”. You need to cover the basics for each of your target bubbles, then you can align with sales on which segments are the most lucrative, and go deeper on content that’s geared more specifically toward those audiences.
Who owns the blog and who contributes? At what stage do you need one or more full-time people dedicated to content?
Marketing should own the blog – typically a marketing leader runs the blog. If you’re a startup who doesn’t have a marketing team yet, you can bring in a blog specialist to oversee all of it.
Writing is a combination of in-house (or hired) writers and guest posts – get guest posts from industry experts and think of your blog as your own conference for your niche. Who you would invite to speak at your conference? Invite them to come do some guest posts for you. You can have them do the writing, do an interview, or you can get them to approve certain quotes from a past talk for you to use if they’re someone who’s super busy.
Founders and sales should give input – whoever wants to have an input should definitely have full visibility into whatever workflow and project management system you use to plan out content.
What types of content should you incorporate into your blog?
“For dummies” – these give you everything you need to know on a topic. It’s a one-stop-shop.
- Why it’s useful – this type of content is foundational because it has to deal with your industry as a whole, and it also has to do with your particular product.
- Examples – I have a project management software client at the moment and they created an entire “for dummies” guide of “how do I use project management software?” that gets into “Now that I’ve purchased it, what do I do with it?”.
- How often to use this – when you’re just getting started, this is going to be the majority of what you do for 3-6 months; with an established blog, you’re just looking to fill gaps. This could be ~50% or your content, because these are great general terms that help with your SEO (hopefully other people also reference and link to your “for dummies” guides, which is where the real magic happens).
- Tips – cover whatever problems you’re solving with your product, write about how the solutions are changing, your opinions, and about products that are symbiotic with yours.
Stats and quotes – you need to have a blog to build authority and having that authority makes people trust you. It persuades them to choose your product over others. It’s a “way of being” that you achieve by providing industry-leading content.
- Why it’s useful – these types of blog posts take a blog from being generic to make it something that’s unique and memorable.
- Examples – you can sprinkle stats, expert quotes, and infographics (if you have a design team) into content routinely. You can build a standalone content piece around a data roundup or an original data report.
- How often to use this – sprinkle stats and quotes into posts as much as possible. Have data roundups at least once a quarter, preferably once a month.
- Tips – statistics expire, so keep your stats recent and don’t use a stat that’s older than 2 years. Use a stat or expert quote to support each one of your main points.
Google Candy – be thoughtful to work SEO as much as possible from initial outline to final draft.
- Why it’s useful – this work helps new visitors find your content, it’s how you boost organic search hits to help generate leads.
- Examples – knowing what types of posts will appear with certain keywords helps you shape your content. If you type in “what is bone broth,” you won’t get an article explaining what bone broth is. Instead you’ll get an article explaining the different types of bone broth, recipes for it, and where you can buy it online. You aren’t really getting an article on “what is bone broth”, which is crazy, but Google wants to highlight the “best” answer and the “best” is up for interpretation. Study the interpretations that are winning, infuse some common themes, and then figure out how to elevate it even more.
- How often to use this – ideally 100% of the time. Run all your content through the below Google Candy steps.
Storytelling – this is so crucial for B2B blogs, and it’s something I don’t hear people talk about because we love to talk strategy and just getting to the top of search results. When you infuse your own personality into it, that’s when the work really sparks a connection with the audience.
- Why it’s useful – this is where you put the “human” back in B2B marketing through using your own unique voice.
- Examples – experiences that you’ve had or a colleague has had. Include in the copy that you felt a certain way or noticed something in particular. This can be something small in your day-to-day life or something big in your industry.
- How often to use this – the percentage of posts you dedicate to this depends upon branding and the experience you’re creating. Some brands could manage to incorporate it into all their posts. At the bare minimum, one out of every five posts should make sure it has a little bit more flavor.
What are the steps to create “for dummies” content?
Step 1: Make a list of topics – figure out keywords for topics relevant to your niche industry, the product lines that you have, and your target audiences. Think about what are the very basics that we need to make sure are covered, make a list of what you already have, and figure out where the gaps are that you need to fill in. If you’re starting from scratch, just go through every basic question you can think of that beginners would want to know.
Step 2: Cross reference with blogs of top competitors – look at what do they have that you’re missing? And what do they have that you’re missing that you have a unique perspective on?
Step 3: Ask questions from other departments within the company – I like to talk to the sales department, customer service department, and reference social media accounts, especially if there are interactions where people have asked questions. Add all your insights to the spreadsheet.
Step 4: Factor in keyword research – figure out, “do I have the key topic ideas under each of these main keywords covered?” If not, what is the longtail version of this small keyword that I can use in another topic.
General tip: Connect action steps to product features – use your features as examples, connect the product functionality to the business use case, customer needs, or industry.
What are the steps to create Google Candy content?
Step 1: Outline google search intent – use a tool like Topic to enter your keyword or search term, and generate a list of all the primary headlines listed in the top articles. So you have multiple ideas, not just, “this is the title.”
Step 2: Include keywords in certain key placement areas in the post – you want to have your primary keyword at a minimum of five times throughout your blog post, if it’s 1,500 words or less; maybe a couple more times, if it’s 2,000 words or more. Also place that keyword into at least one header tag and in the metadata. Include at least three to five secondary keywords, especially if you get the longtail question words in there, preferably more towards the top of the piece.
Step 3: Use tools to optimize the writing for SEO
- Editing tools – tools like Grammarly can help you gauge reading level. The standard now is around an eight grade reading level at the highest, because Google and readers prefer things that are simply plain and straightforward (no one wants to read a dissertation, like when they’ve got half an hour to do research on something). An app like Hemmingway can also keep your sentences from getting too long, search engines prefer 14 words or fewer.
- Post rating tools – tools like Clearscope can tell you how your draft rates against other blog posts that are already on Google for that keyword. It’ll tell you how your piece would potentially rank along with giving some helpful suggestions.
How should you use calls to action (CTAs)?
All blogs should have a call to action – this can be the difference between a one-and-done type post that the visitor reads and leaves, and “Netflixing your content” where you have the next recommendation queued up and ready to load.
Offer something valuable in your CTA – include downloadable freebies, like a template, checklist, additional guide, or a locked episode of a special podcast. Also include a link for what to read next.
How should business goals and strategy impact a blog strategy?
101 topics help you get leads initially – from there, you’ll be able to branch out and Google is going to understand where your website fits in with your competition.
Tune as you scale – for example, if you’re getting a lot of leads, but not a lot of conversions, what is something that you’re possibly missing? It could be, “do people know we have this feature already?” If not, you should center a blog post on that area.
If you’re evangelizing a market – figure out what content targets are consuming (whether or not they have a lot to do with your B2B market). What are popular podcasts, books, and other blogs. This lays the groundwork for “okay, a lot of people are talking about these things, as part of this audience.” The answers you find might surprise you, so try to go in with an open mind.
What should the content planning process look like?
Build out a year’s worth of content around 4 pillars:
- Think about your 4 primary pillars for this year – tie all 4 pillars back to one primary goal.
- Brainstorm 13 ideas or questions you’re interested in per category. You want to aim for 13 just in case you have a “throwaway idea” or a repeat or something. This process should take an hour and a half max.
- Each idea becomes a theme for the week (52 ideas total), with at least one blog post
- Expand upon each weekly theme with social media posts (e.g. make a graphic of a quote, or design infographics), bullet-point actions steps in your newspaper, etc.
If you’re launching a new product, give it a pillar – If you’re launching a new product in Q3 of next year, have a dedicated pillar related to what that product will do, and blog about related topics in Q1 & Q2 centered on those topics.
How often should companies post to their blogs?
In general, about once a week – with 4 pillars and 13 ideas per pillar, it shakes out to about one per week.
If you’re new, you need to post consistently – more isn’t necessarily better, but you need to post at least once a week.
Once you have 3+ months of analytics recorded – you can look at the data and experiment. Maybe try doing two posts per week and see if you get more traffic or not. Check out your primary keywords that you’re tracking and see how where you’re falling in that area.
How should companies promote/distribute or re-use their blog content?
Expand upon each theme – with different types of content in addition to blog posts, like podcast episodes and social media posts.
Don’t just copy and paste the content into the newsletter – ultimately, you’d hope that your newsletter subscribers are also checking out your blog. You should be linking your blog post in the newsletter, but you want the content to be different so readers are getting extra value. If your blog post had a lot of ideas, but maybe not a lot of actions, you can do like 15 action steps your readers can take to implement the topic you’ve covered.
Content for enablement – content that focuses on needs that your customers didn’t know they had tends to work well. Even if your product is pretty straightforward, there could be uses for your product that people didn’t think of, so they can get even more out of it. Even if it’s a small feature, it could be something they didn’t think of and helps them use your product in more creative ways.
What type of content works best for different parts of the funnel?
Top-of-funnel – “for dummies” content works well for early leads. About 50% of your blog is typically aimed at the top of the funnel.
Middle-of-funnel – this is when you get a little bit more in depth with technical instructions for things. As a result, you need to be more action focused and include supplementary tools via content.
Bottom-of-funnel and customer marketing – get data from the sales and success teams to figure out where people are falling off. And trying to see if there’s anything you can do through thought leadership to help bring them back in or close that leaky funnel.
What are the most important pieces to get right?
Have a clear roadmap – for the topics you’re going to cover, the keywords you need to hit, and your content planning.
Consider your strategy – make sure content is tied back to business and sales goals.
Become the “go-to” resource – build trust with your audience to stand out from similar companies.
What are the common pitfalls?
Don’t “post and pray” – this happens when you just write without doing your research, following SEO practices, or using a tool to see how your post will line up against competitors’ content.
Make sure your blog is searchable and well-formatted – clunky user experience is the death of blogs, no matter how good your content is.
Don’t leave out the personality – don’t have your blog be the place where you’re just putting up notices for the company. Be sure you’re incorporating content that will bring people back.