Blogging can be highly effective in turning potential customers into real ones. But what’s the most effective way to do it? Natasha Courtenay-Smith, a former journalist who now advises companies on digital strategy, offers her advice
Business blogging, inbound marketing, content strategy, microblogging for social media – what’s the difference? Don’t be confused by what different marketing companies might call it.
All of it is about creating and sharing content to build your brand, engage your audience, drive more leads, turn potential customers into real customers, build trust, increase recommendations, and ultimately spend less time selling.
Since 2007, I have used content – including blogging – in all my business activities. While running my online business, blogging twice a week brought us more traffic, made us appear more reputable, improved our position in the search engines taking us to the top of Google, made our clients like us and trust us more, and turned us into the leader in our field… need I say more?
Having since sold that business, and now working as a digital marketing consultant, content is still a central part of my own visibility strategy and that of my clients.
We live in a world in which content creation equals visibility, thanks to our new rulers Google and the giant social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
And while sometimes they can seem like monsters that need feeding, what is absolutely the case is that when you feed the monster – and feed it in the right and consistent way – your brand grows online.
It all starts on your blog, which lives on your website, because you are ultimately trying to bring people back there. What you create there helps you when it comes to your social content. Here’s how to get it right…
1 Ensure you get your content type right
The type of content you create is closely related to what you sell, but you are trying to educate, inform and entertain potential and new customers – in a way that makes them know you, like you and trust you.
A large proportion of your efforts should go in to ‘evergreen’ content. Most business owners focus on ‘live’ content because the pressure of an upcoming event they need to sell tickets for, or a new product launch, spurs them into action.
Of course live content is important, but evergreen content that has value all year round and remains relevant for the long term is too, because it can be repurposed and shared out multiple times (more on that later).
2 Take content seriously
Content-writing is not a job that can be delegated to a part-time PA or landed on the plate of an already busy employee. It requires thought – and a schedule. Even if you only publish once each week, the week can quickly roll round with the next blog post still unwritten. Make it someone’s responsibility.
3 Think about what your customers are asking you…
…and then write up the answer as a blog post. Their questions are the best source of inspiration all the time, but especially when you are starting out. Using these topics, you can also extend your thinking to include what you would like your customers to know about your business or understand about the industry you operate in.
4 Use industry news for inspiration
All industries have their own news, and you can use developments and happenings in your industry to inspire your blog posts, and make you appear like the industry leader you are. Try to be one of the first to offer your comment on major industry developments, suggestions as to how the industry as a whole can improve. Make sure you set up Google alerts for keywords that relate to your industry and use these news stories for inspiration.
5 Write on themes wider than just your business
This year, the UK Blog Awards company category finalists included a huge variety of businesses using content in an inspiring and successful way. I loved the way the finalists were writing on themes wider than just what they offer, which will make their content more engaging.
6 Set your expectations about visibility right
The downside today is that there is an ocean of content out there. You’re not going to get visibility overnight. It might take up to two years to get the attention you want. But each post increases traffic, and if you want to spread the word about what you do, creating useful content really works. Your other option is an expensive PR or advertising campaign. Of course, they work too, and for maximum visibility you’d have a stake in each. The brilliance of content, though, is you can just get on and do it – and publish when you want to.
7 Forget what you learnt at school
Think about skimmability. Good skimmability involves short paragraphs of three or four sentences with the occasional one-sentence paragraph for effect, subheads, interesting bullet lists and highlighting of specific texts with block quotes. Subheads should be informative enough that someone scanning a post will get the gist. But they should also be intriguing enough that your scanner wants to learn more.
8 Rinse your content for all it is worth
This means finding ways to repurpose and reuse the same piece of content again and again to get maximum value from it. You might pull one or even five key quotes from a blog post, change them into ‘quotable’ images, and then edit the original post into different captions. Suddenly that one blog post has given birth to five different social updates. Step two of this is loading it into a social media scheduling tool that contains a library which circulates content out again and again in a never-ending cycle (good examples are Meet Edgar and Sendible).
The Million Dollar Blog by Natasha Courtenay-Smith is out now, published by Piatkus.
For more information, visit natashacourtenaysmith.com
Who Natasha Courtenay-Smith
Role Digital strategist and publicist to clients including celebrities, SME owners, charities and private health care clinics. Author, The Million Dollar Blog.
Previous roles Senior writer for the Daily Mail. Founded online press agency Talk to the Press in 2008, which was acquired by SWNS in 2014. Consultant for Zita West Fertility Clinic and the Good Life Experience festival.
Join Natasha at our IoD breakfast seminar
Natasha Courtenay-Smith will be speaking at How To Blog For Business Growth, the first in our new IoD Enterprising Women Seminar series, event on 5 April. Click here for more information and to book tickets
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