This is a write up of the session “Brilliant Blogging: Best Practices to Enhance Your Customer Reach” by Bas van den Beld, Owner & Founder, StateofDigital.com and Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Online Marketing at SES London 2014.
This session is dedicated to helping you understand how to get the most reach out of your blog. The session looks into the importance of the bloggers you use, the outreach you do to influentials, and reveals strategies that help you find out what to write about and how to make your content more visible.
It covers the following topics:
- Manage bloggers for a group blog.
- Find and reach the right influentials to push your content.
- Decide what to write about.
- Utilise these strategies to enhance your customer reach, using examples from State of Digital.
Lee started by asking if blogging still make sense at all now. The convenience of micro blogging or tweeting may seem more immediate and contextually relevant thing to do. But as someone who has started blogging in 2003, written 1+ million words, 3500 blog posts on 300K Networks, Lee doesn’t think that at all.
What are the benefits of blogging?
- Blogging is an excellent way to create awareness and demand with useful and engaging content.
- Blogging is an incredibly powerful inbound marketing and PR platform for speakers to use and promote themselves.
- Blogging can attracted inbound clients, eliminate the need in any salespeople and serve as free advertising for your company.
The key to successful blogging it to not be scared to make mistakes. WIthout making mistakes you cannot learn making smart choices in the future.
Lee’s blog gained momentum and was voted number 1 content marketing blog three times. How did they do it? The anser is ‘being the best answers’. The success can then be duplicated and scaled up.
Lessons for successful blogging
There are few lessons for successful blogging:
- Stand for something specific. Focus will attract attention and build credibility.
- Know your customer.
- Discover what your customers want and give it to them.
- Connect online to offline and back. Use blogging for networking magic at events and IRL.
- Great content isn’t great until it is discovered, consumed and shared.
- A person has finite topic ideas. Look beyond yourself and look for ways to connect with other people with ideas and make sourcing of content part of the process. If all you do is write about what you think people will find it boring; you need to find a way to recognise other people’s thoughts and ideas and give them credit. Even schedule 5 minutes every day for morning and looking for opportunities will be enough. You may not find anything one day, but as long as you do it methodically and persistently you will find it.
- Don’t be a blogging wimp. Stand up for something and follow it through. Even if nobody followed straight away, persist and follow through.
Bas continues and says that blogging should not be stressful, it should be fun. It can get you a long way. Blogging has enabled Bas to travel the world and speak at amazing events.
Blogging is not about the blog itself, it is about the moving up from an unknown person in the industry to an influencer who makes the difference.
There are three different angles of blogging.
1. Manage bloggers for a group blog.
There can be many people in a group blog, for example StateOfDigital.com currently has 35 bloggers. Managing them is not easy and very important. You need to make sure your bloggers write content that meets your standards.
Structure is critical. Structuring things and planning which blogger is going to deliver what content and when. Structure will help you keep things under control. Even something as simple as a Google Docs spreadsheet with dates and bloggers names again them can be enough to manage your schedule.
Give your bloggers a place where they can be together and make them feel at home. Bloggers are not just bloggers, they are influencers with their own networks. They can get source good information but they can also spread the information. By choosing your bloggers you choose your network. This is why you need different types of bloggers, otherwise you are running a risk of your content being the same. Bloggers need to be comfortable with what they write about and not feel terrified of putting something online.
Here are just a few things StateOfDigital.com does to make bloggers feel part of the group:
- Facebook groups. We run a private Facebook group where we help each other to find topics, review and improve content or give criticism. The group makes everyone more comfortable about writing. Giving criticism is actually very important, it makes bloggers feel they are getting help.
- Schedules. We have a schedule of when each blogger has to deliver a post. We do not share actual publication dates to avoid stressful environment.
- Advertorial team. Each blogger has it own editor who chases for their content and ensures it gets reviewed and published.
- Interested persons. It is imperative to have a group of people dedicated to what you are doing. If you are the only person interested in the goal the blog will not work. Broaden the group, keep them happy and ensure they deliver quality.
2. Decide what to write about
Finding the right topics is easy. People often say they are too busy to blog, but often the reality is they simply lack inspiration to blog.
There is always something to write about. Content is everywhere, it is on corner.
Using tools which allow you to quickly make notes help. You can go through he notes later and see if you can get an idea for your next post. There are many tools out there, one of them is Evernote.
Blogging is not about yourself. Always be careful writing about writing what you like and find what your audience likes and wants to know. Most people are not interested in what you have to say. Nobody will be waiting for the next blog post from you. You need to find out what people want to read and offer an interesting read on that topic. You need to understand your target audience.
Understand who you are talking to and learn to love it.
Places to look for topics:
- Tweet Decks. Creating tweet decks with searches you are interested will prompt notifications every time somebody talks about it. Twitter searches are very useful.
- Specialist accounts. If many of your customers belong to a particular profession you created a separate account and following only people in that profession. it will help you monitor what they say. For example, many of StateofDigital.com customers are chief marketing officers (CMO’s) therefore we have a dedicated Twitter account to follow CMOs. You can see which sites they share, what they read and respond to. It will give you ideas on which sites you should try to get in touch for blogging or advertising. In addition to learning about what they like you will also find what they dislike and get annoyed with.
- Hashtags. Hashtags will give you a lot of information published mentioning that hashtag. You an extract all of the information not Excel and scan for potential topics.
- With Quora you can search for a keyword and see what relevant questions people have. All these questions are potential blog posts. Type in ‘conference speaking’ and you will see questions like ‘How do I find upcoming technology conferences to speak at?’ or ‘What qualities do you look for in a panelist or conference speaker?’ There is a lot of content already out there, you just need to find it.
- Graph search allows you to find what people want to talk about. Become a member of the relevant groups and you can find a lot of information that would help you find ideas for potential blogs.
- There is a lot of valuable information on Google plus. Discover and follow relevant communities to see what questions people in these communities ask. People will like you if they see that you create a post from their question and provide comprehensive answer.
Use your ideas to write not only traditional posts, but also guides, how to’s and even whitepapers. There is a lot of demand for this type of content. Whitepapers are slightly more complicated you may need to collaborate with other companies to get access to other people expertise and information.
Writing a blog post is quite easy:
- Sketch out a simple skeleton of your post and expand every section afterwards. Start with sub-headings because these are the questions you will be answering.
- End with the conclusion and the introduction.
- Never forget the ‘so what’ element. The ‘so what’ has to be in every article. it helps highlight what your post actually mean for the reader and what they and take away from reading your blog post.
3. Find and reach the right influentials to push your content.
Bloggers are not just bloggers. These are people who influence somebody else which means that everybody is an influence. But some bloggers can make a real difference and make people look up to them.
- Create content that travels. StateOfDigital.com created 2 minute videos for every winner at the European Search Awards 2012 where they won best blog of he year. These videos brought a lot of visitors to the site. It may not be huge content, but it certainly travelled. Even a small video can makes people come to your site.
- Big interviews are also very interesting. If you can find an influential personality and sit down with them and really get to understand their point of view on something, it will make an interesting read/watch.
- Hangouts. You can get interesting people to join your hangouts and later broadcast them on the internet. Pick out the people who join your hangouts. It is free, easy to do and requires very little effort.
- Niche experts. Find niche experts knowledgeable in a particular area. These niche experts usually have their own following which you can tap into.
So the big question is if blogging is dead? Every keeps asking this question after Matt Cutts said: ‘… stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.’ He doesn’t really say blogging is dead, he specifically refers to spam. Blogging can be dangerous if it is low quality. But there will always be a demand for great quality blogging.
Avoid accepting guest blogging. Sometimes it can seem like an easy answer if you want to take a break or go on holiday. Publishing posts from other people may not be a bad idea but you need to choose your guest bloggers based on their merits or pick individuals who you know are knowledgeable on certain topics who can add value to what you do, not destroy it.
Remember, blogging is not about you, it’s about your audience.