You did it. You started blogging for your business.
[Insert victorious music here.]
Trouble is, things aren't panning out exactly how you expected. You’re generating a handful of views but people aren’t flocking to your posts … and they’re not converting either. Something must be broken, but you’re having trouble identifying what the problem is.
If you’re having a hard time demonstrating a measurable return from your efforts, it's likely that your blogging strategy is lacking direction.
So we decided to help. Below are some questions designed to help you assess your blogging strategy and ensure that you’re getting the results you deserve.
Want to Improve Your Blog Strategy? Ask Yourself These 11 Questions
1) Do I know my audience?
If you're struggling to gain traction with your audience, you'll want to stop and consider how well you actually know them.
Every post you create should be designed to provide a solution to one of your buyer persona's pain points. They have concerns, and it's your job to alleviate them.
However, writing without clearly defined buyer personas in place is essentially the equivalent of blasting rap music at Grandma's 90th birthday. It just doesn't make sense.
To set your posts up to resonate with your audience, you'll need to clearly define the audience you are looking to reach and use their profiles to guide your blog’s topics and formats.
(Don't know where to start? Check out these free buyer persona templates to get you going.)
2) Is there a keyword focus?
In order for people to read your blog, they need to be able to find it. That makes sense, right?
This requires you to start by identifying a specific keyword that is representative of something your ideal readers would plug into a search engine.
When it comes to selecting a keyword, you have two options: short tail and long tail. To clarify, here are a few examples of both:
- Shoes (short tail) vs. Size 6 Black Pumps (long tail)
- Hotel (short tail) vs. Five Star Hotel in Boston (long tail)
- Software (short tail) vs. Open Source Cloud Computing Software (long tail)
Wondering which one to go after?
The answer is: It depends. When you’re first starting out, aiming for long tail keywords is smarter -- while the search volume for long tail terms tends to be lower, there is less competition around them and the return is often higher.
But if you’ve been blogging for a while and tend to get a decent amount of traffic from search, aiming for short tail and long tail can work. At that point, your domain will have built some decent search authority, making it easier for you to rank for competitive terms.
3) Would I click on my title?
Want to hear something scary?
According to Copyblogger, on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
Essentially, your blog title has the ability to make or break the success of the whole post.
For some direction on how to optimize your blog titles, we look to Iris Shoor, co-founder of Takipi. Looking for insight to guide her own headline strategy, Shoor used a script to analyze over 100 blog posts to determine what type of content works best.
The script sorted the posts from most shared to least shared and used social APIs (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+) to determine the number of shares for each post.
Here are a few notable takeaways from her research:
- The words “no”, “without,” and “stop” helped generate more shares. (Example: “Apple Is Not The Most Valuable Company In The History” was the #2 most shared post on TechCrunch enterprise.)
- The words "kill," "fear," "dark," "bleeding," and "war," as unconventional as they may seem, also generated a lot of shares. (Example: “Big data is dead. What’s next?” was the #1 most shared post on the Data/Cloud section of VentureBeat during the time of her research.)
- Other recurring words used in viral titles include: “smart,” “surprising,” “science,” “history,” “hacks,” “huge,” “big,” and “critical.”
4) Am I piling on?
"In content marketing, relevance is a function of specificity," urges Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners.
To combat the amount of content being created each day, marketers must find a way to differentiate their message from the pile of existing articles.
This isn't to say that you can't cover topics that others have already tackled, but rather, you should find a way to put a unique spin on it. Don't write what has already been written.
BuzzSumo is a helpful tool for marketers looking to uncover what type of content performs best for any given topic. For example, a search for the term 'email marketing' turned up the post, “What Does Your Email Writing Style Say About You? [New Data].”
While this clues us in on the fact that people are expressing a clear interest in email writing styles, the goal isn't to duplicate this post, but rather use this insight to come up with a new idea around a similar topic.
Introduce new research. Take a different stance. Provide a unique solution. Don't pile on.
5) Am I including the right CTA?
Every blog post that you write provides you with an opportunity to educate your audience and encourage them to move to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
While including a CTA at the bottom of your post is important, including a CTA that aligns with the content on the page in which it lives is even more important to driving conversions.
Let's say you're writing a blog article on the importance of visual content. Rather than including a CTA for an offer on how to prove the ROI of inbound marketing to your boss, consider something more closely related to the topic like an offer on free stock photo resources.
Notice the correlation? So will your readers.
Keep in mind that in the beginning you may not have an offer that is a perfect fit for every post that you write. That’s okay. This process will become increasingly easier as you continue to expand your library of resources.
6) How frequently am I posting?
Once a week? Twice a week? Every single day? How often you post could have a big effect on your blog’s traffic and lead generation capabilities.
We recently turned to HubSpot's 13,5000+ customers to analyze their data and draw some conclusions regarding the effects of posting frequency. While we found that company size and business type (B2B vs. B2C) both play a role in determining the most effective blogging frequency, these are a couple of the more general conclusions we came to:
- Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic than companies that published between 0 - 4 monthly posts.
- Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got about 4.5X more leads than companies that published between 0 - 4 monthly posts.
To dive even deeper, check out the rest of the data here.
So if you’re hurting for traffic or leads, changing up your publishing frequency (while maintaining quality, of course) is one lever you can pull.
7) Is my information credible?
These days, anyone can publish a blog post. And while many of us are committed to serving up the freshest, most credible information we can find, some bloggers fail to fact check.
The trouble with this is that visitors often approach information they find online with a great deal of skepticism. In fact, research by Insights in Marketing found that only 26% of respondents believed advertisers and marketers were trustworthy.
Armed with the ability to conduct a Google search, they won't hesitate to do a little research of their own to confirm or disprove your claims.
With that said, calling on unreliable resources can seriously diminish the perceived value of your business.
Here are a couple of tips to ensure that you're not turning visitors off with baseless information:
- Run your own experiments. Nothing beats fresh, new data. If you're not finding any recent research on a topic you're covering, don't hesitate to dig into your own database to surface some new findings.
- Turn to thought leaders. If you're looking to boost your credibility, reach out to some of the thought leaders in your industry. Not only can you get a gut check on the validity of your content, but you can also grab quotes from them to strengthen your arguments.
8) Where else can I distribute this?
If you're just hitting publish and hoping for the best, you're only scratching the surface in terms of traffic opportunities.
In an effort to drive traffic back to your content, it's important that you implement a distribution strategy to get your content in places where your ideal audience is already hanging out.
To figure out which channels you should focus on, look in your marketing analytics. If you're a HubSpot customer, you can turn to your Sources Report to easily uncover which channels are driving the most traffic and determine the original source of both your contacts and customers. This insight can then be applied to your distribution strategy, allowing you to double down on the channels that see the most success and weed out the ineffective ones.
While it will take a bit of time to source meaningful numbers, feel free to use this time to conduct some distribution experiments. You might find a hidden gem.Here are a few distribution options you may want to explore:
- Social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc.)
- Community forums
- Guest blogging
- Email newsletters
9) Can I automate time-consuming tasks?
Coming up with diminishing returns from an article that you poured a ton of time into is frustrating. It makes you question whether or not this whole “blogging thing” is even worth your time investment in the first place.
While it’s up to you to trust the process, we can offer you some relief in terms of shortening the time spent between ideation and publishing.
Bloggers who leverage marketing automation software have the ability to win back their precious time by automating some of the time-consuming tasks that they run into. With a marketing automation software in your tool belt you can easily identify and resolve SEO red flags, schedule posts in advance, and set up an automated notification emails so your blog lands in your subscribers’ inboxes automatically.
For those struggling to find time in their day to get everything done on their blog, these are invaluable functions.
10) Is there enough variety?
You know that saying, "There's no such thing as too much of a good thing?"
I have a bone to pick with whoever came up with that, because when it comes to your blog content, variety can be key.
Even though your audience may respond really well to "how-to" posts, but it’s possible that over time, they may start to crave something else. And when they do, you can bet that they'll turn elsewhere to get it.
To ensure that your visitors remain satisfied over time, it’s critical that you experiment with diversifying your content strategy. To get you started, consider peppering in some alternative content like:
This type of diversification will help you to cast a wider net and attract different types of learners.
11) Did I answer the question my readers have to the best of my ability?
Before you ship a post, stop to determine whether or not you've addressed every last question and objection that your audience might have.
Think of this as a quality control precaution.
If your readers don't get every last drop they need from your post, they're going to jump to another page -- maybe even your competitor's page. (Gasp!)
Point being, finish what you start.
To ensure you've covered all the bases, ask yourself these questions before you publish:
- Will my readers have any lingering questions after they’re done reading this post?
- Are there any helpful tools that I'm leaving out?
- Are there any opportunities to clarify my points with an example?
- Would I benefit from having a second pair of eyes take a look at this?
If yes, you know what to do. If no, it's time to hit publish.
Don’t Give Up
Business blogs rarely ever see overnight success. If you’re serious about leveraging this tool to advance your business, you have to be serious about committing to the time it takes to see results.
And when you do see results, make sure that you learn from them. Take what you know and use it to make smarter decisions about your content in the future. Asking yourself these questions will get you off to a good start -- but learning from your results will help you grow over the long term.