An excellent business or organizational blog is a digital marketing strategy that engages a target audience, drives website traffic, helps people and boosts sales. However, starting, running and maintaining a blog might seem overwhelming to a busy SMB owner.
One way to get inspired and move forward with your blog is to study successful blogs that consistently provide quality content to an engaged audience.
7 excellent blogs to emulate
While there’s no one formula for blog success, we’re highlighting seven organizations that deliver valuable content via high-quality blog posts so you can learn from their approaches.
Livestrong.com is a wellness blog that started as a partnership with infamous Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who is no longer involved. Livestrong.com is separate from – but supportive of – the Livestrong Foundation, which aims to provide financial, physical and emotional support to people affected by cancer.
Livestrong.com began with a focus on exercise but now also covers eating well, weight management and general health topics. Rather than appealing to hardcore fitness devotees only, its broad appeal makes the content approachable for people of every age, ability level and stage of their wellness journey. The tone is relaxed and informative, not judgmental.
The takeaway: Livestrong.com concentrates on health information and recommendations but appeals to a broader audience because of its laid-back approach. In addition to eye-catching headlines and quality written content, the blog uses images of everyday people so readers can easily relate to the content. You’ll find plenty of healthy food, exercise and weight loss advice, as well as posts about aging, physical concerns and mental health.
Gizmodo is a tech blog that goes beyond technology to explore topics that appeal to its target market, including science, spaceflight, and the intersection between technology and culture. This broad focus makes Gizmodo more than somewhere to check out the latest tech gadget’s features; readers can put the technology in the context of its real-world applications.
The takeaway: Gizmodo doesn’t limit itself to one strict category. Instead, it discovers its readership’s interests and delivers the content. Because readers spend more time browsing the site, encountering various advertisers, it’s easier for the blog to sell advertising and increase revenue.
Tip: To get the most SEO benefit from your blog, include three to five instances of a keyword in each post, link between your blog posts, link to outside (noncompeting) websites, and try to get outside websites to link to your blog.
With more than 4 million readers, SmartBlogger is one of the most popular online resources for active or aspiring paid freelance writers and bloggers. While many blogs provide excellent information to people in an online magazine form, SmartBlogger takes a more proactive approach. In addition to regular-length blog posts, it offers comprehensive, free multi-chapter guides on finding paid freelance writing jobs and starting your own blog.
SmartBlogger doesn’t have any advertising; instead, it makes money by selling courses to its readers. It starts with a “freemium” offering to get readers on its email list, then promotes its two courses. One course offers a content marketing certification, and the other shows readers how to earn passive income from their blog. [Related article: 8 Content Marketing Tasks You Should Automate]
As an additional revenue stream, SmartBlogger shares other products that might interest its target market via affiliate links. Every person who signs up via a link generates money for SmartBlogger.
The takeaway: SmartBlogger understands that people who want to make money freelancing need and want details – not generalities – and it delivers. Its decision not to have advertising on its site lets readers focus on essential detailed information, while the blog earns revenue in two ways.
The Pioneer Woman
It started with just a blog, but today, Ree Drummond is a TV star, celebrity chef and the author of several cookbooks and children’s books. Her down-to-earth honesty, gently snarky humor and hearty rustic cooking have taken The Pioneer Woman to blogging superstardom. Drummond speaks to the boot-scootin’ country folk in all of us – that place inside that craves Grandma’s cooking and the smell of an open campfire. Rustic is in, and The Pioneer Woman is riding the crest of the wave.
The takeaway: The biggest takeaway from Drummond is to be yourself. Her blog posts and shows are full of personal insight, family triumphs and tribulations, and passion for her life, family and food.
Marketer Seth Godin’s blog is go-to reading for those in advertising, other creative disciplines and people who just want to think about life with a little more introspection. Yes, the proflic author of books like Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable and This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See weaves marketing advice into his blog posts, but many of the themes are applicable to life in general.
A recent post on “the power of TK,” the editing notation that means a piece of information is still to come, contained this revelation: “The existence of TK means we don’t have to stop and wait for everything to be perfect before we proceed … Our lives are filled with TK moments. It’ll come. No need to stop and wait for it.” Godin’s short, easily readable daily dispatches are guaranteed to make you think about life, and business, in a new way.
The takeaway: Your blog should be about your area of expertise, but that doesn’t mean you can’t convey larger, deeper lessons about life and offer nuggets of wisdom that transcend your particular industry. Your posts also needn’t be long. Sometimes the best points only need a handful of short sentences. Most of Godin’s posts take less than five minutes to read; his audience may be even more devoted because of that brevity.
Richard Branson’s Blog
Richard Branson, the personable CEO of Virgin, shares wit, wisdom and general life advice on his blog, aptly titled Richard Branson’s Blog. He advocates a positive work-life balance, and his blog is loaded with photos of him doing interesting, extraordinary and absolutely ordinary things. There’s something inherently fascinating about the not-so-secret life of a billionaire who likes to have fun. [Related article: How to Achieve Work-Life Balance as a Small Business Owner]
The takeaway: Unleash your inner CEO. Starting a business isn’t easy. It takes a fighter: someone passionate, interested and involved. Most CEOs have plenty of stories about success, failure and what it takes to win. Branson’s award-winning blog is full of personal stories sure to appeal to entrepreneurs everywhere.
Carrie Smith turned her passion into her business and brought an active community along for the ride. Her Careful Cents blog is clean and inviting, and each post is a direct answer to the most burning financial questions every freelancer and startup entrepreneur wants to know. Her award-winning blog is successful because it delivers exactly what visitors want – information, inspiration and honest answers that are often difficult to find elsewhere.
The takeaway: Smith’s Careful Cents blog demonstrates how to find your niche by identifying what your intended audience most wants to know. Research what competitors in your niche cover, figure out what they don’t and then break the mold. Go where no one else goes. Address challenges, such as how to handle non-paying customers and how to deal with international clients.
Tip: If you’re launching a new website and blog, read our reviews of the best content management systems and blogging platforms to find a content solution that fits your unique needs.
The importance of a company blog
Blogs are a crucial and versatile part of your marketing and communication strategy. Here’s why you should have a company blog and how it will benefit you:
- A blog drives traffic to your website. Three strategies that drive traffic to your website are paying for advertising, paying for search engine optimization and organic ranking. Search engines prefer pages that provide helpful and relevant content to readers, and that is just what blog posts do. Each post should be optimized for specific keywords so that they can individually climb to the top of search results, enabling new people to enter the website from multiple directions. And you may notice that while the first two ways to drive traffic include the words “paying for,” blogging is free, and each post keeps on driving traffic long after its original post date.
- Blogs are excellent social media destination links. In your social media content, only around 20% or less of your posts should be promotional. The remaining 80% should be informative, and what’s more informative than an entire blog post on a subject? Social media followers will click on your link, providing you with even more website traffic. Additionally, people who come across your blog from search engines or other external links can spread the word by sharing your blog content on their social media accounts. [If you’re short on inspiration for your social pages, consider these 12 ideas for social media posts.]
- Blogs establish you as an expert. Blog posts allow you to showcase your expertise and experience on subjects relevant to your business practice and prospective customers. Blog content shows readers that you know your stuff and have the knowledge and credibility to help them. Because the content is free, blogs also build goodwill with potential customers.
- Blogs help convert traffic into leads. After reading one or several blog posts, potential clients may be convinced that your company can provide them with the right product or solution, making blogs an excellent lead conversion tool. If they decide to purchase while on your website, the sale is just a click away. [Follow these nine lead conversion tips for success.]
Tip: Follow the 5:3:2 rule for social media content. For every 10 posts, five should be content from other sources, three should be your content, and two should be personal, fun content that humanizes you.
How to create a company blog
You may notice some commonalities between the seven award-winning company blogs we highlighted. You can apply these best practices to your company blog.
- Know your readers. To build an award-winning blog visitors will love, understand your market and audience. Design your content strategy with them in mind. While the blogs highlighted here are from different industries and have different customer bases, each company understands its market and the customers who comprise its audience.
- Have the right breadth of content. Each excellent blog focuses on topics of interest and branches out into related subjects. Their blogs are focused, but not narrow.
- Offer high-quality writing. Successful blogs offer varied content that is professionally written and always interesting.
- Unify with editing. Most great blogs have more than one author, but their content is carefully chosen. If your blog will include multiple authors, have a seasoned editor to ensure quality, consistency and a coherent content strategy.
- Include eye-catching, high-quality images. Blogs are about more than the written word. Each post should have a professional-looking photo or image to capture readers’ attention and reinforce the message. [Related article: The Truth Behind Stock Photos: What Works and What Doesn’t]
- Become indispensable. Fill your blog with a wealth of information readers won’t find elsewhere, and publish on a regular schedule so they know what to expect.
- Give your blog time to build. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time, patience and social interaction to build an audience. Successful blogs are a two-way street.
- Consider how your blog will make money. While new blogs probably won’t generate any revenue, you should have a good idea of how your blog will generate income once it reaches a particular readership milestone. Will you sell advertising, use affiliate links or sell products? This decision will depend on the characteristics of your readers and what they need and expect.
Sherry Gray contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.