Starting a Blog That’s Strategic, Relevant and Engaging

To Blog or Not to Blog?

Starting a blog is often a far bigger challenge than people expect. They can be a great source of traffic to your site and, done well, can greatly increase lead generation and even sales. The benefits can be worth the time and effort if you have those at your disposal. So the big question is ‘to blog, or not to blog?’

Blogs are synonymous with the internet, having come about not long after the explosion of the world wide web in the early 90s. Originally called a weblog (web-log) the name was shortened to blog in the late 90s.

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of blogs. One of the great things about them is that anyone with a device and an internet connection can put fingers to keyboard and get their virtual voice out there. Small businesses with blogs get 126% higher lead growth than those without blogs (content marketing institute) so it’s not surprising that they’re popular. But if you’re starting one yourself how can you be heard over the rabble?

Starting a Blog and standing out from the crowd

Why Start a Blog?

An important thing to think about when considering starting a blog for your business is the main objective. What will your blog do? Lots of people, and companies, start blogs purely for the sake of ‘it’s the thing to do’. But as with any marketing decision, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate why you’re doing something and what exactly it is you’re looking to achieve through doing it.

There are several possible functions of a blog so it’s important to consider them before starting one yourself. Here are the main functions of a blog:

  1. To drive traffic to your site
  2. To boost your reputation as an authority within your industry
  3. To provide customers with engaging content and insights into your business
  4. To capture data from your audience i.e. newsletter signups etc.
  5. To link to products with a clear objective to sell

A lot of these overlap. For example, you can use a blog to drive traffic to your site (1) in order to link to products with a clear objective to sell (4). Another example, you can provide customers with engaging content and insights (3) in order for them to then share through social and, in turn, drive traffic to your site (1). This touches on the idea of ‘viral’ content, which isn’t in and of itself an end goal but rather can be a step within a robust and ingenious content strategy. For example, a viral video may raise brand awareness but it’s important to then drive that traffic somewhere or use that exposure effectively. In terms of ROI, the objectives you choose for your blog can, therefore, be split into two main camps: brand awareness; and sales:

Reasons for Starting a Blog

Brand Awareness

  • To boost your reputation as an authority on your industry
  • To provide customers with engaging content and insights into your business

Sales

  • To capture data from your audience i.e. newsletter signups etc.
  • To link to products with a clear objective to sell

You’ll notice that ‘To drive traffic to your site’ isn’t in either of these categories. Although driving traffic to your site can do wonders for your SEO, it’s not usually an end goal. Essentially, once the traffic is on your site you need to decide where you want it to go and what you want it to do.

Starting a Blog for Brand Awareness

Blogging for brand awareness is similar to what you might be trying to do through your organic social posts. If you have a robust Instagram strategy in place, for example, you will have pinpointed the main goal of your Instagram account. Organic social posts are a popular way to raise brand awareness and blogs can be a brilliant extension of this and source of content to link to.

Blogging as a Selling Tool

You may build your blog full of engaging and relevant articles. This is great, but if your main objective is to sell more products then you need to go that step further. Your next question is then ‘how do I now drive this blog traffic to sale?’. 

For example, your organic social posts may also be bolstered by paid advertising with a more sales-focused approach. Equally, a blog may be a way to engage your audience and from there you can encourage them to explore products or sign up to a newsletter. 

Let’s Talk Blog Content

Content is a big buzzword these days. It’s something we deal in every day at Outlaw. It’s thrown around a lot and, love it or hate it, the best way to get your head around it is to simplify it by replacing it with the word ‘stuff’. What ‘stuff’ are you going to post on your social channels? What ‘stuff’ are you going to put on your blog? Now, you can have high quality ‘stuff’ and you can have low quality ‘stuff’. The main goal of all this content, or ‘stuff’, is for it to be high quality, engaging and relevant to your audience. Depending on your business goals, this can be your current audience or perhaps a potential future audience you’re hoping to target.

So where do you find all this ‘stuff’? A more technical way of putting it is ‘content gathering’. A major pitfall that some people find themselves stumbling over is trying to gather content or make stuff just for the sake of filling a blog or social media account. This goes back to what we were talking about at the start of the article – starting a blog for the sake of ‘it’s the thing to do’. Your audience will see right through this and it could even have the opposite of your desired effect; it could, in fact, disengage your audience. 

Content gathering for starting a blog
Cross-departmental content gathering is a great way to ensure variation and integrity in your blog content.

Three Methods of Content Production for Starting a Blog

Method 1: Product First

Once you have a definite goal for your blog it’s a lot easier to then put together a content strategy. For example, say you run a natural cosmetics company and you want to drive people to sale. Now, imagine one of your products is a lovely lavender face moisturiser. A blog article around the benefits of lavender would be a great way of seamlessly then linking to the product. This should be a far more soft-sell than saying ‘look at our face cream, it’s great, come buy it’. The article should be well-researched, perhaps going into the history a little – how lavender’s been used traditionally in herbal medicine – you could talk about the health benefits – it has stress-reducing properties, it can help with sleep etc. You’re basically painting a picture and building a world for your audience to dive into.

The great thing about this is that the customers that find your blog article and read it will be the ones most likely to go onto purchase. Basically, having identified an engaged and passionate audience, your product or service should then be a very easy sell. It’s important to link to the product throughout the article without it being too in-your-face. For example, perhaps a lifestyle shot of the product as opposed to a straight-up product shot. Some people just include in-text hyperlinks as opposed to whole product blocks. This says to the reader ‘this information is here if you want it, but we’re not going to force it upon you – it’s your choice.’

Starting a Blog with Product Focussed Articles Beauty Lifestyle Shot
Lifestyle shots, rather than product photography, work best when writing product-focused articles or linking to products from related content.

Method 2: SEO First

So the way that this method differs from the first is that it’s a bit more technical. Some may also say it’s a bit more cynical but it really can be effective. 

So, you’re wanting to drive traffic to your site first of all, regardless of what your final objective then is.  With the first method, above, you’re choosing a product and building your keywords and article around that. But what if no one is searching for the health benefits of lavender? (see example in method 1). Maybe people are more interested in the environmental benefits of your products or buying your products as gifts for others. If people are searching for ‘natural beauty gifts’ or ‘eco-friendly cosmetics’ then your articles about herbal remedies and benefits may not show up for those terms unless you intentionally build your copy around these keywords.

It can be really useful to look at what keywords and search terms people are using to reach your site. There are lots of free keyword search tools out there or you can pay a bit more for SEMRush for a more in-depth option. Once you have an idea of your keywords, the next step is to find out what terms are being searched for more than ones your currently targeting. It is important at this point to still focus on keywords and search terms that are still relevant to your products or services and, equally, are in line with your brand and ethos.

For example, if you spot that ‘eco-friendly cosmetics’ is ranking highly and your natural cosmetics company has a heavily environmental and sustainable ethos then this is ideal. This then gives you a great centre point around which to build your content strategy, all the while coming back to the question, ‘is this content in line with and relevant to my main SEO focus’. If your SEO focus is in line with your brand and business goals, then this is when everything starts to fall into place.

Method 3: Peripheral Content

If you just focus on product-based articles or articles with a specific SEO focus then you would quickly run out of content and it would start to get stale or repetitive. Or worse, it would grind to a halt entirely. It’s important when building out your content plan to have several categories within your SEO focus. This can translate into blog categories and can be built upon and developed as your blog grows alongside your business.

Including case studies when starting your blog can be a great way of demonstrating your process or showing behind the scenes photos. Transformational ‘Before and After’ photos are always popular.

It’s important to then produce ‘peripheral content’. This includes articles that are related to your main focus but drifting ever so slightly outside of it. For example, if your focus is on eco-friendly cosmetics, then you can expand your peripheral content out to focus on other sustainability-focused subjects. It’s important not to stray too far, however. For example, eco-friendly cosmetics are a lifestyle item, so in this example, you would perhaps stick to similar lifestyle-related articles i.e. ‘how to reduce your use of single-use plastic’, ‘top 10 most stylish recycling bins’ and ‘the best eco-friendly gifts this Christmas’.

Peripheral content can also include client or customer case studies, reviews and events coverage. As long as it all links back to your main goal, it’s on brand and it’s relevant to your audience.

Your Blog Content Strategy: Bringing it all Together

The best content strategy brings together all three methods outlined above, ensuring a rich and diverse subject matter. As long as it centres around the customer and your main objective, you’re golden.

Rich Media Blog Content 

Text can be long and boring. People enjoy having fun things like images and video to break up text and ensure a memorable engagement with your content and brand. Including rich media content (images and videos etc.) also make your content far more shareable. 

Keeping on Top of Your Blog

It’s essential to work your blog content into your workflow, either within the marketing department or, more effectively, throughout the company as a whole. Cross-departmental content gathering ensures varied, authentic content. If it’s left to one person without input from other sources it can become repetitive and stale or lose momentum, especially if that one person has other, more pressing tasks piling up on their desk. Lots of companies outsource their social media management to external companies such as ourselves here at Outlaw. We work closely with our clients to ensure content is kept up to date, engaging and in line with their business goals and brand values.

Get a content plan in place and write articles in advance to save yourself playing catch up later.

There are several things you can do to keep on top of your content management when starting a blog:

  1. Have a blog content strategy in place
  2. Write articles in advance
    It’s a good idea to have a bank of articles prepared in advance of launching your blog. This means you’re one step ahead and can schedule posts to go out while you work on the next batch. You can always write extra articles as and when topical events pop up or news events come out of the blue that are relevant to your business and/or ethos.
  3. Keep up the keyword research
    If you’re stuck for content, go back to your keyword research. Digging around and thinking outside of the box can be a great way to come up with content that could capture a secondary audience. 
  4. Work your content gathering into your workflow
    It can make life so much easier if you make content gathering a natural part of your business’ workflow. For example, if you offer a service make sure to request a review at the end of each project. By working this into your workflow allows you to pinpoint potential for case studies. Talking to customers is a great way to find out why they choose you over competitors. This could help identify interesting peripheral content. For example, perhaps you’re a construction company and you’ve just worked with a client with disabilities. Hearing their feedback on how your team handled their renovation requirements may spark an article about home renovation for wheelchair access. Here you can link into your bespoke renovation service. If done well and targeted for keywords such as ‘wheelchair accessibility’’. 

Start Blogging

We hope this article has been of some help. You’ll see that blogs done well can be a lot of work, but hopefully, our hints and tips will help you in your decision whether or not to go for it. It’s important to have your strategy in place before starting and to commit the time and energy needed to keep it up to date, engaging and relevant. Follow our tips and your blog can be massively beneficial in boosting your brand exposure and increasing lead generation. 

Starting a Blog with Outlaw

Here at Outlaw our content and SEO experts can help bring your blog strategy to life as well as offering content management services. We like to start by chatting through your marketing challenges and establishing if we’re the right partner to deliver the results you need. Get in touch by simply dropping us a line at hello@outlawsocial.co.uk or call on 0131 210 0035 to arrange a consultation today.

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