On the 8th July 2015, we officially launched Digital Impact. After months of hard work and hundreds of hours of research, design, development and testing, we were finally live. Time to celebrate, right?
Well, no. Digital Impact was a brand new company with a brand new website and a brand new blog. No one knew we existed. The hard work — actually getting our name out there — was just starting.
Over the next ten months, we worked tirelessly to get our content in front of readers and develop our blog from an empty ghost town into a bustling online space. Now, it’s time to share how we — and some others — did it.
For this blog, I’ve gathered some industry experts together and asked them what advice they would give fledgling bloggers to get their website off the ground. Here’s what we came up with.
Set Goals and Track Results
The first question I ask any budding business blogger is: why do you want to blog?
Before you even think about putting pen to paper — or finger to key — you should have a concrete answer for that question. Building a successful blog is no easy task and you’re setting yourself up for failure unless you actually know what you want to achieve.
Sean Clark launched his blog when he still worked client-side with Adnams Plc, using his blog to position himself as an authority in the digital marketing industry.
I started my blog in 2009 well before I’d even considered starting my own business. Initially blog posts were haphazard, infrequent, based on what ever took my fancy. This led to inconsistent posting and a meandering message. Fine for a personal blog, but not if you want to grow a business.
Setting goals is the key to success. We discovered that blogging everyday would grow our traffic exponentially. Although it was impossible to maintain long term.
Director at SeanClark.com
Sean’s experience isn’t unique in the industry. Blogging without an overarching goal will generate results — but only to a point. If you want to reap real results, you’ve got to know why you’re creating content.
What that goal is depends solely on your business but some common ones include:
- Express Brand Identity
- Data Capture
- Improve Credibility
- Establish thought Leadership
- Attract Media Attention
- Lead Acquisition
Alongside high-level goals, Sean recommends you track specific metrics.
Ensure you have realistic goals in place. Measure the impact of your blogging efforts. Is it driving more traffic? Are people spending more time on your website? Do they return more often?
One simple measure of the impact of your blogging is to monitor the most popular landing pages for organic traffic in Google Analytics. Your blog should have a positive impact on SEO, amongst other things. If your blog posts aren’t attracting organic traffic you may need to make some changes.
Tracking the effectiveness of specific blogging strategies is an essential component in any campaign. Keeping an eye on what’s generating results allows to refine your campaigns, focussing on the approaches that are working and ditching the bits that aren’t.
Build a Good Foundation
If you build a house on swampland, you shouldn’t be surprised when you come home to find nothing but the top of a chimney sticking out of the ground. Buildings need foundations to exist; blogs do, too.
Thankfully, blogging foundations require far less concrete and manual labour.
For blogs, a good technical foundation means building something that’s easy for users to read, simple for readers to share, accessible for search engines and pleasant for you to use.
After a couple years working in content marketing, I’ve got two big tips for people building a blog from scratch.
One, build on an intuitive content management system. Nothing kills creativity more than wading through clunky software and fighting through awful functionality. Do yourself a favour and build your blog on something that amplifies the effort you put in.
Two, host your blog on your domain. There’s an alarming myth floating around certain corners of the web that it’s better for SEO to host your blog on a separate domain. The story goes that it’s easier to raise the authority of a standalone website then link it back to your main domain to feed off its authority.
Well, that’s nonsense.
Any positive ranking signals a standalone blog generates will carry just as much weight if they are attached to your main domain. Every reader you attract, comments you generate and link you earn will help bump your site up the rankings.
Goals set and blog built, it’s onto the next big question: who are you writing for?
Understanding your audience is an essential step in creating content that resonates with your target audience and actually drives results.
To get started, think about the following:
- Who do you want to read your content?
- Who do you want engaging with your brand?
- Who do you want converting into customers?
The answers to these questions will influence everything about your blog, from the subject matter to the tone, so it’s important you have some solid answers from the start.
Head of content at London-based Curated Digital, Monica Karpinski, agrees:
In starting a new blog I would first and foremost focus my efforts on intense audience research: how are the audience talking about your product, service, or topic, and what’s already being said out there in the space? How can I create something that’s of use to them that’s also engaging, and differentiates me from competitors? Content created with mind to real data, such as search volume and popular content put out by competitors, is content that’s smart to what people need, and stands a good chance of helping you rank organically (with time).
Head of Content at Curated Digital
Every blog you create should lead somewhere. As soon as a user reaches the last word, you should start nudging them into the sales funnel and a little closer to conversion.
For example, If someone reaches the end of one of our blogs on web design, we might deliver a call-to-action for:
- A video website review
- An eBook on inbound marketing
- A digital consultation
Linking your blogs to campaigns means users have a clear direction after your blog and means you can retain as many readers as possible.
Choosing a separate call-to-action for each blog can get messy so we typically run two or three main campaigns with each blog we publish linking back to one of them.
Plan Your Content
Once you’ve designed your campaigns, you need content — blogs, videos, infographics and so on — to actually attract new users and interest current readers.
Here’s Farzana Baduel of transcontinental PR firm Curzon PR on the necessity of building a robust content calendar.
I understand that when you begin blogging you expect to go viral immediately — trust me I know that feeling! Bloggers should understand that building a consistent audience can take time; ensuring your blog is consistent is one of your greatest assets.
Creating a schedule and designating certain days for new posts will not only get you into the groove of blogging and take away the stress to produce, but it will also give your blog a better focus. At the same time, audiences will become accustomed to your schedule and visit your blog on the days they know new content is most likely to be posted. Creating a guarantee such as New Posts Every Tuesday calls for loyalty from your audience and can be more successful than those oft-ignored email updates in their inbox.
Managing Director at Curzon PR
Following on from Farzana, here’s what I recommend to all new bloggers.
First, create a spreadsheet and dump in all your ideas. Good ideas, bad ideas, ideas you’ve nabbed from competitors— stick them all in.
Next, dig out the audience research you did earlier, run through your spreadsheet and ask yourself whether your ideal audience would actually be interested in reading that blog. If they would, keep it. If they wouldn’t, ditch it.
Keep whittling your ideas down until you’re left with the best of the best content ideas.
Finally, assign each blog to a campaign and slot it into a free spot on your content calendar.
All successful publications have an editor driving it forward and your blog is no different. You need one person delegating tasks and rapping knuckles when they aren’t done.
Now, your editor doesn’t have to single-handedly plan, create and promote content — in fact, they shouldn’t — but they do need to know what needs done, who’s doing it and when it’s due.
Encourage your editor to own your business blog. Have them set the tone and direction. Have them divide up the content and assign it to people for writing.
Assigning an editor gives your blog a tangible sense of structure and keeps everyone pulling in the same direction.