Continuing OpenView’s Content Snapshot series, “B2B Blogging 101″ provides you with all the how-to basics you need to launch a corporate blogging program that actually results in leads, not Z’s.
We know what you’re thinking — corporate blogs can be so, well, lame. But there’s no reason yours has to be. Done right, your blog can be the engaging lightning rod your business needs to create more (and better) relationships with new prospects, cultivate relationships with existing customers, trumpet your industry expertise, and build your brand. The truth is a corporate blog is an essential component of an effective content marketing strategy and it should be a fundamental component of your company’s content factory.
Corporate blogs can be written by a single person within your organization (Putnam Investments’ President and CEO, Robert Reynolds, for example, has his own corporate blog called “The Retirement Savings Challenge”) or by a number of employees throughout your organization (for instance, OpenView’s blog features posts written by every member of our team).
Either way, creating and actively publishing a corporate blog will help you develop more engaging connections with your buyers, drive website and search engine traffic, build your brand, show your personality, and establish your company as a thought leader. In fact, as serial entrepreneur and investor Mark Suster writes in a guest post for TechCrunch, a blog can even serve as a key competitive advantage for growing startup and expansion-stage businesses.
What You’ll Need to Start
While you might be sold on the importance of developing a business blog, you shouldn’t simply jump right in and start posting. To be effective, your entire team must buy in to the power of corporate blogging, and you need to have an editorial plan in place that will ensure you’re writing about topics that truly matter to your customers.
With that said, you should strive to answer the following series of questions before executing your corporate blogging strategy:
Do You Have the Right Technology?
- Is your website set up to support a blog?
- Do you have a content management system (CMS) that will allow individuals to publish their own blog posts, or does an administrator need to do so?
- Will your blog be prominently displayed on your company’s landing page?
Can You Identify Your Target Audience?
- Who is your audience?
- What topics are they looking for your input on and what problems or issues can your blog help them solve?
- What is the most valuable information you can provide them?
Who Will Take Ownership of Key Roles and Responsibilities?
- Who is responsible for writing content?
- Who is responsible for editing and posting that content (individual employees or an administrator / blog editor)?
- How often will you be blogging?
- Are your blog writers prepared to monitor posts for comments and respond to them in a timely fashion?
- Who will promote new blog posts once they’ve been published?
Have You Established Clear Blogging Goals and Metrics?
- Which of your company’s goals will your blog help you achieve and how?
- How can you use your blog to reflect your company’s story, culture, and values?
- How will you measure the success of your blogging effort?
Done right, corporate blogging adds measureable value, but as with any practice, it will take time and resources to get your blog up and running internally and for the content you create to become popular with search engines and target readers. To facilitate that process and improve your chances of experience success sooner, here are seven key steps that you should follow to create, manage, and measure your corporate blog:
Step 1: Choose your blogging platform
Having loads of content won’t do you any good until you have a place to post it. While one option is to simply host your blog on your website, a much better — and, in many ways, easier — option is to use a dedicated blogging platform like WordPress.
As arguably the most popular and feature-rich content management system, WordPress has an immense library of features built into it (including the ability to schedule posts and optimize them for search engines) and it can be easily integrated into your website. Whichever blogging platform you choose, however, web design expert Rich Brooks says your blog’s design must complement or match the rest of your corporate branding, and you need to run your blog under your company’s main domain (i.e., blog.openviewpartners.com).
Step 2: Develop target audience personas
Creating those personas starts with identifying and understanding your business’s target audience (i.e., potential buyers or influencers). To do that, you should meet with the appropriate person in your marketing department to gather previously generated materials about buyer personas. If that information doesn’t exist, your CEO or executive team should be able to help you develop profiles of the people that are most likely to buy or care about your products or services.
The better a company can personalize blog content around its buyers and their needs, the more effective those assets will be in moving buyers through their journey and increasing its sales and marketing team’s ability to more effectively communicate to those target buyers.
Step 3: Choose your target keywords
For more quick & easy content tips, see the other guides in our Content Snapshot series:
Choosing your blog’s target keywords before you begin composing posts is critical. If you’re able to craft blog content around those keywords, rather than trying to retrofit posts with keywords after the fact, you’ll stand a far greater chance of driving search engine traffic. While building your keyword list, you should consider three factors:
- Relevance: Your target keywords should be tied in some way to what your business sells, and you should be able to imagine your target audience searching for those exact words or phrases in a search engine.
- Popularity: Using a tool like Google AdWords, you can gauge how often a keyword is searched for. Generally, the more often your target keywords are searched for, the better.
- Competition: The above point about popularity comes with one caveat. While more searches for a specific keyword is good, the more competition there is for that keyword, the worse your chances are of winning a search result. You can use Google AdWords to analyze keyword competition, as well.
Step 4: Train and engage your bloggers
Whether you’ll have two or 20 employee bloggers, it’s important to not assume that they know how to write and publish engaging blog posts. Be sure to walk your bloggers through a thorough training process that teaches them how to use the blogging platform and write posts that are geared toward your target personas.
It’s also important to keep tabs on your employee bloggers output, and engage them with blog post ideas if they’re struggling to keep up. You might also consider hosting contests that reward bloggers for the number of posts they publish each month, or the number of page views driven by a specific post.
Step 5: Write and publish posts
While it’s unrealistic to expect that employee blog posts will be grammatically flawless, it is important to ensure that the content you publish is reasonably clean and professional. To make sure that’s the case, you should adhere to a few simple corporate blogging dos and don’ts:
- Do proofread all blog posts before publishing them
- Don’t write blog posts that are longer than 1,000 words
- Do write blog posts in easily digestible formats (how-tos, quick tips, etc.)
- Don’t publish posts that are shorter than five sentences
- Do include pictures, graphics, and video in blog posts
- Don’t paraphrase or plagiarize and call it a blog post
- Do link to — and cite — other content when referencing someone else’s ideas
Once your blog is live and you’re regularly producing blog posts, you should encourage all of your employee writers to include a link to their blog in their e-mail signature, and promote their posts through their social networks.
To widen your reach even further, you might consider building an influencer marketing program that encourages key influencers to distribute your content, or creating an eNewsletter that curates your best blog posts each week. Lastly, you should explore blog syndication options like Alltop, or websites like Business 2 Community and Business Insider that often republish content through their RSS feeds.
Step 7: Monitor and report your results
Because it’s highly unlikely that you’ll launch your blog and experience immediate success, it’s critical to consistently monitor your blogs performance, make adjustments as necessary, and report results to the initiative’s key stakeholders. Some of the key blogging metrics that you might track include:
- Page views
- Unique visitors versus repeat visitors
- Average time spent on site
- Social shares (Tweets, inShares, Likes, G+1′s, etc.)
There are numerous other metrics that will help you monitor your blog’s performance. If your blogging strategy isn’t helping you accomplish your organizational goals, you can use these metrics to formulate a plan that will better align with those goals.
Examples of Great Corporate Blogs
HubSpot: Inbound Internet Marketing Blog
SEOmoz: Daily SEO Blog
Balihoo (an OpenView portfolio company): Local Marketing Automation Blog
Whole Foods: Whole Story Blog
3 Training Tips to Become a Better Blogger by Copyblogger
7 Essential SEO Tips by TopRank