My own business depends on blogging better than my competitors, and it's not easy.
I'm in the education space where it's my blog versus university websites. Online Study Australia competes for traffic against universities with tens of thousands of students. However, I've learned that a well-executed strategy can beat, or at least compete against, big, high-authority websites.
Here are my tips for anyone who wants to drive sales and grow their business with a company blog.
1. WordPress does the job.
For most small businesses or even large ones, WordPress is the best blogging platform. Anyone with a little technical ability can run a WordPress blog. And, with themes and plugins, it's got loads of power. Using WordPress also allows you and others to maintain the blog.
If you need the blog to be separate from the rest of your site, install it in a folder such as articles, news or even blog. That means your blog will be on a URL like example.com/articles/. This produces better Google rankings than using a subdomain (like articles.example.com) or a separate site. [Looking for the best web hosting provider? Read our recommendations.]
2. Be strategic and invest in each post.
Each addition to your blog should have a strategic purpose. If it doesn't, you are probably wasting time and resources.
Nonperforming content bloats and clutters a blog. Don't make the mistake of believing that every post you churn out adds value. You may be better off rewriting or even deleting old posts that fail to bring in traffic or deliver sales.
For consistent success, each post should be worked to a high standard and marketed. Both activities take time and effort. That's why, for most businesses, investing in a limited number of effective posts is better than high-volume publishing.
You know those people who tell you to create a blogging schedule, like every day or three times a week, etc.? Don't listen to them. How often you publish depends on your capacity to keep producing high-quality content. A single successful article can be more valuable than a hundred losers.
3. Create some high-traffic pages.
A few pages that bring in big traffic numbers is a good way to launch your blog. These pages have one purpose: to get eyeballs onto your site. They don't actually have to make money, which is why I recommend creating a few pages, not loads of pages.
As examples, the topics for two of my higher traffic pages are "free online courses" and "a downloadable timetable for students." These pages have limited commercial value by themselves. But they more than pay their way by boosting blog readership and authority.
4. Produce useful content for your target audience.
Whom do you most want to visit your blog? From a commercial standpoint, the answer probably should be people who are interested in purchasing the product or service your business sells.
Try to create content that your target audience will find extremely useful at the moment they are contemplating a purchase. For my blog, I do that by creating pages for people browsing online courses.
5. Use Google search for topic ideas.
I'm a big fan of using Google search to discover what your buying audience is interested in. You want to write on topics that attract them. That's how you bring in large numbers of potential customers.
Suppose you run a financial planning business. Search "financial planning" on Google. At the bottom of the page in related searches, you may see phrases such as "financial advisor [your city]" or "financial advisor near me".
In this example, prospective clients want to find a local advisor. That's what the blog should give them. Some possible article topics could be "[your city]'s most trusted financial advisor" or "financial advisor in [your city]."
Also, think about the level of competition for the search term. Especially when your blog is young and lacks domain authority, it's more realistic to target narrower ("long tail") phrases for which there is less competition. To illustrate, you could blog about "financial advisors in [your suburb]". As your blog matures and you have a few successful posts, you are better positioned to target more competitive terms.
6. Design landing pages for ad traffic.
The quickest way to get online traffic for your business is to advertise. You can run digital ads on popular platforms such as Google AdWords (which includes YouTube), Facebook and on local news sites, and even other blogs.
For digital ads to be effective, the people who click them should arrive at a page that convinces them to buy your product or service. That's where your blog comes in. For each ad campaign, you can design the ideal landing page for converting visits into sales.
7. Blog for your customers and search engines.
A more challenging method for drawing customers is to rank your blog on the first page of Google for commercial search terms. This is my preferred strategy, because it keeps working after you've stopped spending money on it. And your blog gains strength with each successful post.
Ranking well starts with creating content for two audiences: your customers and search engines. Blogging for your customers means creating content they are interested in and will genuinely find useful.
Blogging for search engines is about helping computer algorithms understand that your content is valuable and relevant to your target audience. Some of the many strategies you should employ include placing keywords in titles and subheadings, producing varied text on the topic and linking to important pages from other parts of your site.
8. Hire freelance writers.
Hiring freelance writers is quite easy and, depending on whom you hire, is generally cheap. For example, you can hire elite-level writers at iWriter.com at a rate of less than $20 per article.
Paying for writing services may be worthwhile even if you have good writing skills. You can use freelancers to produce first drafts or research topics you are unfamiliar with. When you find a great writer whose style you like, you can continue hiring them and effectively train them to write for your business.
While I recommend hiring freelance writers, you still need to be closely involved in the process of creating content. Writers perform better when they have clear instructions and receive constructive feedback. You also need to make sure the final copy achieves your content and marketing goals.
9. Invest in digital marketing.
The success of any blog, especially new ones, relies on digital marketing. Digital marketing includes advertising, which is about creating highly clickable ads that reach your intended audience.
Another of the digital marketing activities is search engine optimization (SEO). Part of SEO is optimizing blog pages for search algorithms as described earlier. In addition, it's essential to gain links from other sites by doing things such as outreach and guest posting.
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Be patient with SEO – it takes time. For most blogs, search engines tend to be slow ranking new content. It might take several months, for example, for your fantastic new article to start appearing high up in the rankings.
Digital marketing is more effective and, frankly, more fun if your company blog is really strong. After years of doing it, I've settled on one overarching strategy for successful blogging: Produce something to be proud of and then market it for all it's worth.