Editor’s note: You may have missed this article when CMI published it last year. We’re publishing this update since blogging continues to be among the tactics content marketers consider most critical to their success.
Despite how much work is involved, blogging often is thought of as one of the most basic points of entry into the content marketing game: It’s a versatile technique with a lot of creative possibilities, options, and approaches; yet it doesn’t require a lot of technical expertise or equipment to produce and maintain.
Blogging is also a powerful means of building an audience for your brand, and sustaining their interest over time – something every content effort should strive to achieve. Not to mention it can help fuel your other content marketing channels, since blog posts are easily adapted for use on social media or in email newsletters.
Those are just a few of the likely reasons why 80% of B2B marketers in our 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends study include blogging as part of their content program, with other sectors (such as B2C and nonprofit) reporting similarly high usage rates. Our research also found that blogging is consistently among the top tactics its users consider to be most critical to their content marketing success.
Yet, considering just how powerful a role blogging can play in achieving key content marketing goals like engagement, lead generation, and a subscribed audience, it’s somewhat surprising to see such a gap between those who use it and users who rank it as their top factor of success.
What might be holding businesses back from getting more benefits out of their blogging efforts? For starters, our B2B research found that more than half (59%) of content marketers may lack a clear idea of what content marketing success looks like for their organization. It may seem backward, but many businesses begin blogging before they outline the goals to which they want their efforts to contribute or before they even understand how to gauge its performance.
There are also plenty of less obvious obstacles your blog content needs to overcome if your efforts are going to truly achieve the best outcomes from your efforts. If you aren’t feeling effective with your blog, chances are you are struggling with at least one of the following issues, and might benefit from the tips and examples below:
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Problem 1: You aren’t publishing on a consistent schedule
Great blog content should be like an eagerly anticipated gift to your readers – they look forward to every new delivery and are happy to visit your site to retrieve your content as soon as it is available. But what happens when they arrive and the gift they were expecting hasn’t shown up? If you can’t keep the content engines churning or fail to deliver on the expectations you set with your blog, those readers will walk away disappointed – and may think twice about returning.
Warning signs: Consistency issues typically result from one of these two underlying problems:
- Lack of editorial infrastructure – You haven’t set a workable schedule for creating and publishing your content or established the necessary workflow that would reliably govern your process.
- Lack of resources – You need more writers or more creative ideas; or you are running into productivity problems that are keeping your team from being able to bring your ideas to fruition.
- Develop an editorial calendar – Establishing a schedule of topics you will cover and the timeline for doing so can help you set realistic expectations and keep your content creation in line with your marketing goals. These editorial calendar essentials will help get you started.
- Improve your creative ideation process – If you are struggling to fill your content calendar with impactful topics, it may be helpful to revamp the way your team generates its content ideas. You can also try some helpful tools that can be used to spark content creation.
- Enhance your productivity – With so much to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated as the to-do list grows ever longer. Need some tips to help you streamline your efforts and keep up with all the tasks involved in content creation? Learn more about the 30 habits of highly productive content teams, then check out our collection of time-saving content marketing tools. You can also follow our complete guide to becoming a content marketing productivity master.
- Enlist the help of your team members for content creation – Your executives, team members, and even colleagues outside of the marketing department can be motivated to help increase your content coffers. Use these tips to get your whole team involved in your content marketing efforts.
Best practice example: Moz’s Whiteboard Friday
If consistency is key, Wizard of Moz Rand Fishkin certainly knows how to unlock the doors of audience engagement. Whiteboard Friday blog posts tackle the SEO questions (both large and small) that marketers have, and do so in a creative and visually appealing way – week after week, without fail.
Problem 2: Your blog content isn’t unique or distinct
For your content to stand out among the competition, it needs to offer distinctive value – providing information your readers can’t get anywhere else, serving a segment of your audience no one else is addressing, finding a unique angle for content in your business niche, or delivering on promises your brand is uniquely qualified to make.
Warning signs: If you aren’t giving your audience a compelling reason to choose your content over everything else they could be spending time with, your blog will never reach its full marketing potential. Here are some sure signs your content is going to fade into the background:
- You don’t know what makes your brand special – You need to identify the specific ways your business is different than everyone else’s before you can create content that communicates with a signature tone, voice, or style.
- You are targeting too broad an audience – As CMI founder Joe Pulizzi often says, if your content is meant for everybody, it won’t benefit anybody.
- Craft your editorial mission statement – This sets the tone for all your content creation efforts by defining your unique perspective on your industry and outlining the value proposition your blog content will offer.
- Find a new niche – If you don’t believe you can be the leading information provider in your chosen content niche, you haven’t drilled down deeply enough to find the right angle – for your blog or any other content your business offers. Struggling to find your footing? Try following Joe’s advice for creating a content tilt.
- Get creative with your approach – Sometimes the power of a blog isn’t rooted in what you say but rather in how you say it. Look for opportunities to take your blog readers down an unexpected path, approach topics from a unique angle, or explore special interests that your brand and its fans may have in common. Check out these 75 examples for a little inspiration on taking content in a novel direction.
Best practice example: Denny’s Tumblr Blog
Denny’s blog is a veritable grab bag of entertaining eclecticisms that range from clever to downright bizarre. Though its content choices may not be what you would expect from a restaurant brand, everything is presented in a way that is consistent with Denny’s voice – whether it’s a ridiculous pun or a bizarre tip for alternate ways to use pancakes. The blog is filled with the kind of content that people won’t hesitate to share because it’s genuinely funny and doesn’t feel like just another advertisement.
Problem 3: Your blog is all about you – not your audience and their needs
Warning signs: Ever meet someone at a party who goes on and on about himself, without showing any interest in the people he’s talking to? If your brand is “that guy,” your readers will eventually grow tired of not being heard and look for any excuse to leave the conversation – for good.
- Highlight ways readers can get involved in your brand, and recognize them for their efforts – Don’t just say you are interested in your readers – prove that you value their participation and feedback by responding to their comments, creating opportunities for them to contribute their ideas, and rewarding them for helping you spread the word about your business.
- Demonstrate your understanding of their needs by addressing common pain points and providing relief – Create content with tangible value such as tips, templates, and toolkits; answer your customers’ questions; or give your audience access to other real-world solutions that will enable them to accomplish their tasks more quickly and more effectively, with your brand at the top of their minds.
Best practice example: MintLife
Content brand MintLife was conceived as a way for personal finance software service Mint to help its customers get answers to their personal finance questions. Mint built a strong following on a tight budget by inviting finance bloggers to contribute content, while also sponsoring other finance-related blogs – efforts which helped the company quickly grow its subscriber base to more than 20,000 consumers. Then, to extend its reach – and its ability to get found by consumers in need of trustworthy finance advice, the company seeded its MintLife content on popular distribution sites like Digg and Reddit.
Problem 4: Your content has a short shelf life or limited reach
Content can be the gift that keeps on giving – for your brand, as well as for the consumers who love it. But for this to happen, you need to know how to squeeze as much value as you can from every piece of content you create and get it into the hands of as many interested readers as possible.
Warning signs: There are a few key reasons why your blog content might be withering on the vine instead of spreading its seeds far and wide:
- You aren’t producing evergreen content – Trend- or news-focused content is great for illustrating your brand’s insights; but this type of content typically comes with a built-in expiration date, cutting off your potential for long-tail engagement.
- You aren’t making it clear you want readers to speak on your brand’s behalf – If you aren’t making it as easy as possible for readers to share your content, you are making it harder for your influence to spread.
- You publish, then move on – Content marketing isn’t for those lazy, “set-it-and-forget-it” types of businesses. It takes hard work before, during, and after you publish to make sure your content works hard to bring you success.
- Use content curation techniques to refresh older posts – In addition to creating content on evergreen topics that have long-lasting relevance, you can give your aging content a new lease on life through content curation. Update popular posts with more contemporary advice, linking to newer sources of information, including outside perspectives on the topic, or adding fresh visuals – like infographics or videos – to liven up the discussion. Then, republish the post, making sure to acknowledge – and link to – the original.
- Enable the sharing behaviors you seek – Featuring sharing buttons, requests for comments, and calls to action in your blog posts alerts readers that you would like them to share their brand love while helping you channel their assistance in the specific directions you desire.
- Promote your content – Social media and email marketing are both must-have techniques for spreading the word about the content you’ve published. But if you want to extend your blog’s life span and expand its reach beyond your circle of influence, consider supporting your posts with paid promotional techniques like native advertising, promoted posts, and search ads.
Best practice example: The Buffer Blog
In late 2015, Buffer decided to eschew creating new blog posts for one month in favor of repurposing and refreshing content from its archives. Though some of its efforts were more successful than others, the experiment provided some invaluable insights on how to increase the payoff of every blog post.
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Problem 5: You aren’t using your blog to build subscribers and drive loyalty
Let’s face it: For your blog to be effective, it needs to help you achieve your business goals, not just boost your brand’s ego and pad your writers’ personal portfolios. Increasing subscriptions is a solid, measurable step in that direction given that the awareness and interest the blog generates now can be nurtured into long-term brand engagement and loyalty over time.
Warning signs: Why aren’t your blog readers signing up for more? Perhaps your content is getting caught up in one of these likely traps:
- You aren’t directing readers down the path you want them to follow – It took your hard work to bring guests to your door, why would you just let them wander around aimlessly once they’ve arrived?
- You aren’t making a compelling case for subscription – Sometimes readers need a little convincing to help them decide that your content is worth raising their hand for.
- Your offerings are all or nothing – While a one-size-fits-all subscription might satisfy some enthusiastic brand fans, it could be a big turn-off to casual readers, or those who are already inundated with unread emails in their inboxes.
- Include a call to action that directs site visitors to take the next step – Be clear as to what you want them to do and highlight the benefits they’ll receive in return. But remember, your ask doesn’t need to follow the same format every time. Consider these alternatives to the traditional text-based end-of-post callout.
- Offer an incentive to sweeten the deal – Give subscribers access to exclusive content, insider discounts, or other desirable benefits in exchange for their permission to connect with them more directly. You’ll be surprised at how much more willing readers may be to share their personal info when they feel they are getting something tangible in return.
- Enable subscribers to customize the communications they receive – Just because a reader doesn’t want to visit your blog or hear from your business every day doesn’t mean she might not appreciate the opportunity to receive a monthly message or content on specific topics only. By making your terms of engagement flexible and giving readers the power of choice, you’ll make the experience more comfortable, satisfying, and mutually beneficial.
Best practice example: Autodesk’s Redshift blog
Autodesk’s Redshift blog reflects the company’s recently expanded editorial charter, which places a high priority on providing innovative ways for readers to personalize their content experience. For example, registered visitors can choose to follow particular authors and content categories, and new site technology serves them customized content selections based on the actions they take while exploring the site.
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Blogging may have low barriers to entry, but that doesn’t mean it’s an effortless path to content marketing effectiveness. Fortunately, a few small blogging hacks and helpers like the ones above can make a big difference in your brand’s potential for attracting, impacting, and activating your audience more successfully.
Need more ideas on how to create killer blog content? Download our latest collection of amazing brand examples: Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute