So I would like to start a blog for my company and I am challenged with a few things and not sure what to do. Here is my challenges:
Any suggestions where to get started or how to differentiate? Also how long does it take to start driving some leads from your blog and should it only be posted on your website?
If your target audience is CIO's and CFO's of medium to large companies you can expect them to be reasonably sophisticated. Simple mistakes in grammar will cause many of these potential customers to disregard anything said in your blog. You need someone to review and correct each blog before it is posted.
There are numerous ways to differentiate your blog from anyone else's blog. They way to do this is to look at what your competitors offer, determine what your customers actually need, and make up the difference. If your competitors offer dry educational instruction, spice it up by becoming an educational personality. Or offer web/video tutorials. Do whatever your competitors don't do, provided your customers can use it.
Walk before you run! Some of these are immediate, some are long term. Take this and create a short-term plan that you can pull off and grow and improve from there. I'm assuming you have a company website and that it makes sense to integrate BUT you might keep it separate (for example WordPress) depending on your situation.
This will give the greatest SEO value to your website if you can do this. Here's why:
If you're going to use WordPress, here is some information on integrating with your website:
Potential additional plug ins for SEO and other benefits (All in 1 SEO Pack?):
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ (This is a process over time too.)
Lots of capabilities to evaluate: blogroll, share (Twitter/Facebook), Twitter feed waterfall,
Make it visible on homepage.
- Start once a week and go from there.
- SEO: Include search terms in post’s titles when appropriate
- Apply tags to posts.
- Have the poster’s picture with their posts even if just you at first.
- Link link link to outside sources as well as link to previous posts.
- Try to hit 300 – 350 words for each blog post.
- Create appropriate categories – not too many.
- Create author pages for contributors.
- Have a brand voice and personality for your company.
- Nice article about crafting a post: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/08/12/how-to-craft-a-blog-post-10-crucial-points-to-pause/ - Be honest – admit mistakes when you need to do that.
- Be conversational with readers not a marketing pitch.
- Ask questions.
- Funny or enticing or SEO-oriented titles.
- Create a general editorial calendar to think of when to focus on particular topics e.g. holiday, announcements of companies in your space, events, etc.
- Emphasize your thought leadership and the expertise you can bring in value to readers.
- Incorporate graphics and visuals and multimedia when it makes sense.
- Mix it up in types of posts.
- Look to tell the story in different ways. Infographics are really popular these days as well as video, slideshows…and can be as easy as creating a PowerPoint slide.
To your point about positioning vs. competitor's blogs, ask people in the space what they would like to read that perhaps doesn't exist currently. Having the editorial calendar with a clear content subject roadmap will point you in the right direction then over time you'll find out if that's resonating with readers or if you need to keep probing elsewhere.
Search for relevant blogs (blogsearch.google.com / technorati.com / icerocket.com) and link, reference content.
- List of 5 ideas, trends or thoughts
- Publish a list of links
- Take a recent experience and share it
- Answer customer questions you receive
- Comment on other blog articles
- Turn press releases into blog articles
- Check out Viddler for video, DailyBooth for photos.
- Tap into real-time conversations on Twitter
- What’s coming up from your company / major players in your space / industry
- Events review
- Predictions, especially engaging readers
- Aggregate industry information – industry statistics, images, videos, etc.
- Interview your users
- Interview influencers you have relationships with.
- Guest columnists
- Write about one of your user’s business / user of the week/month
- Gossip column
- Statement from the community
- Reader opinion pieces / reader submitted posts
- Top 10 list of something!…
- Summarize latest news of the week
- Social commerce
- Mobile commerce
- Coverage of your company
- Post “inside your company” periodically to give sense of active, vibrant company, what you're working on, etc. But be careful about too much crap that people won’t care about. Make it personal but not too personal.
Monitor competitor’s and industry key blogs and Facebook pages / Twitter pages for ideas and approaches, reference relevant posts when appropriate:
- Seek out bloggers (see above re: relevant blogs) who already produce content around your space. Comment on their posts. Get noticed by those bloggers as well as their readers. Get links back to our blog from them.
- Email all your company's friends and family
- Trade guest articles with similar bloggers
- Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon
- Facebook and LinkedIn
- Automatic Twitterfeed
- Guerrilla assault on forums in your space: …list top ones
- Sign up on those and do unrelated posts to build a reputation.
- Take your best posts and spread those across the forums.
Monitor metrics and comments closely to understand what readers like to see and performance of marketing efforts. Metrics include: subscribers, visitors, # comments, etc. HubSpot has analysis tools.
This is a really nice compilation of tips and articles relative to blogging:
Driving leads might not be the best goal. It's a little generic, and you can do that with google ad words. You might want to think about why a blog verses other marketing avenues.
Is it to inform customers about company news, industry news, etc...
Is it an "inside baseball" blog, a view from the CEO chair?
A more specific goal might help you identify what content you'd like to have, and where to start.
Agree with JP. Blog because you would like to share something - it can be in simple plain English (grammatically right ofcourse). If you don't find the time to write blogs, you could probably try videos (as Marna suggested) or post interviews, podcasts of people relevant in your domain.
If you aren't good at writing, buy a "flip" type camera and video your insights. Then post your videos on YouTube as well as your own blog. Hopefully you will get some redirects to your site from YouTube, which will raise your rankings. And video keeps people on your site longer. Rotate your video with content, so write content one day and then post a video a day or two later. And ALWAYS answer your comments, even if it's just a thank you. (But go ahead and delete spam comments, they don't deserve a comment).
If your goal is to drive leads then I think you'll ultimately give it up. Blogging needs to be completely altruistic. It needs to be about building relationships. Sharing ideas.
If you blog to drive leads, you'll stick with it for three months max and then give up and claim that blogging doesn't do anything to help business.
Building a successful blog takes years. But if you're going to do it, don't do it to "drive leads."