Some background on blogging
Blogging is simply a process for publishing articles to the internet in a way that it easy for the writer AND easy for search engines to reference and rank. Hence, as marketers, it makes our content easier for our prospects to find.
The term, blog, is short for ‘web log’ or online diary. While blogs did perform this function in the past, our interest is in using their functionality to make it easier for us busy business owners, managers or employees to publish helpful, informative or entertaining content to the web so that this content will appear when people most likely to need or want our products or services conduct research online at any stage through the purchase decision-making process.
While you can use online services that host blogs like wordpress.com and blogger.com, it is considered much stronger for your search engine ranking when you host the blogging software on your own website. Much like The RITE Series website, the blog becomes just one part of your website content. The blog section showcases your stream of blog articles referenced by title, category or topic tags, while your other pages house ‘static’ content organised thoughtfully through a menu system.
Blog articles can be as short or long as you need them to be, however Google has become suspicious of short articles of late because they were often the hallmark of spam content producers. There is some thinking that a minimum of 300 words provides enough context within your article to demonstrate to Google what the article is about and prove you are offering some substance. However, the core ethos of the RITE Series and my approach to social media marketing is that you produce content for your audience FIRST and Google SECOND. If your blog articles make more sense being a short paragraph and a picture, so be it. Always write as much as you need to cover the specific topic of the article as opposed to stretching out flimsy content with word-stuffing just to meet some magical word count target.
With that in mind, here are some approaches to blog content:
- how-to articles
- responses to current events associated with your business or product/service, eg, if you own a restaurant and the world suddenly becomes obsessed with basil it would pay to share your chef’s basil philosophy in one article, expand with a profile of your most popular basil dishes in another, and respond to any high profile commentator who is making basil comments you agree with or disagree
- showcase profiles on products, contracts or other achievements but be sure to share interesting insights with these stories, not many of us enjoy reading you patting your own back for its own sake
- questions (this is where you can start building a library of all the common questions you get, along with quirky ones, and share your answers or approach to such questions for the world to read and for Google to index. Before long, you will have resources that you can refer customers or prospects to instead of needing to repeat yourself 100 times a day)
- commentary on your industry or field
Some reasons to use blogging in your Social Media Marketing
As alluded to already, blog articles are readily referenced by Google and the other search engines meaning your articles have a high likelihood of turning up prominently in search results when prospective customers research online. So when a prospective customer searches for ‘what should I wear when I visit Kakadu?‘ it would be ideal if you had a blog article with that title sitting on your website to make it easy for Google to connect your content with that searcher. Of course, you won’t often get a word-for-word match between search terms and your blog post titles, but modelling your blog article titles on phrases and questions your target market is likely to use when searching is the challenge and the goal of blogging as a marketing tool.
Even if nobody ever reads your blog articles and Google ignores you (both unlikely if you are writing helpful content for YOUR audience), the mere discipline of structuring some thoughts around a topic and publishing them publicly on a regular basis does ‘sharpen your saw’ as Stephen Covey would say. I have found the regular creation of thoughtful pieces of content about topics relating to my business, has helped me think through topics more thoroughly and become clearer and more succinct when talking directly to clients.
Another benefit of publishing regular blog articles is that it can build your reputation as a thought leader or ‘go to’ person in your field. Do not be surprised if journalists contact you for comments having Googled your topics looking for spokespeople. Whether such follow up comes from the NT News, ABC, Darwin Life, local bloggers, or other group/media representatives, it is likely to give you a stage for sharing more knowledge and building up strong recall and association values within the minds of your target market. Remember, search engines like Google are as much reputation aggregators as they are search engines.
How to start blogging
To prevent ‘blog fade’ where people start blogging with gusto and then get lost or distracted and abandon their efforts, it is best to plan some topics in advance. My recommendation is to blog at least weekly and to that end coming up with a list of 52 blog article titles in one sitting is a great way to give you a year’s worth of topics.
Your initial planning session of topics should balance three things:
- questions and content most likely to be helpful to prospects and customers,
- titles that most likely match the wording your customers or prospects would use (sometimes that includes technical jargon but other times it will be the opposite, even slang), and
- the inclusion of keywords that you know are used already in search engines (the Google AdWords keyword tool is a great place to start)
So if you are a tour operator in Kakadu and people often ask about what special requirements are needed for travelling to the region and you know people often ask ‘what should I wear when visiting Kakadu?’, and you know the terms Kakadu and Outback Tour have high search volumes each month (49,000 and 3,600 respectively in Australia via Google), you can create a blog article title such as: What to wear on your outback tour through Kakadu National Park. This could also lead you to plan a range of different articles related to this one on what to pack, how to plan travel, etc.
Top End Explorer Tours has created a blog article on their ‘tread lightly’ policy for Kakadu travel but it could have easily spawned dozens of mini articles using each of its policy points as a theme for a specific article. You can read Tread Lightly — Travelling Kakadu the Sustainable Way here. Remember, the way to think of each article is as a one-off piece of content placed online to help a specific person with a specific question. As you build your online library, you will start casting your net over a larger collection of questions and searches.
Finally, regarding planning, the title of each article should be meaningful on its own because it is one of the most crucial things that Google compares when trying to find articles to share with people searching. Your anatomy of a blog article, therefore, consists of:
- title (can be in the form of a question or an information piece)
- lead (your first sentence or two should cut to the chase and share with us what you are about to reveal)
- body (main content)
- sub headings (if your piece is longer than a few paragraphs, break up your text with little headings along the way to make it easier to read)
- image (adding a picture to each blog article means when you later share links to your articles in places like Facebook, your link has a picture next to it increasing the chance of someone clicking through to read it)
- links (when appropriate, your very specific article should include some links to more general, helpful, static content found elsewhere on your website)
- category (most blogging platforms like WordPress encourage you to group your articles into categories – search engines appreciate this. Make your categories useful, broad terms)
- tags (blogging platforms also allow you to add a collection of keywords to your article to help the software and search engines reference your material correctly – these should be narrow and specific to each article)
Now to getting our hands on the tools
You can visit wordpress.com or blogger.com create an account. Or, preferably, ask your webmaster to install WordPress on your own web hosting to act either as your complete website content management system or to just provide a blogging channel through a folder on your site, such as yourwebsite.com.au/blog.
Open the ‘new post’ section in your blogging software, type in your article title, follow with content and images, and then publish.
Once you have published a blog article, be sure to share a link back to your article via Twitter, other social media channels, with relevant customers and in forums when appropriate. Remember to share links to specific articles if you think they will help a prospect or customer. Once you have a body of work, you will start to enjoy the convenience of being able to refer people to previous articles.
The only step remaining is to reply when people leave comments under your blog articles. Your blogging software will most likely be set by default to hold comments for your approval before they go live to your website and it will most likely email you to let you know there is a comment ‘awaiting moderation’. When someone asks a good question or even challenges some of your points, be sure to respond thoughtfully and, if need be, invite the conversation to take place directly if the conversation is likely to be emotionally charged or involve personal/case-specific details. Other than that, it is best to maintain the dialogue publicly as it will be referenced by Google and help bolster your rankings. You might even find that follow up comments spawn ideas for new blog articles altogether.
Ultimately, as you proceed with your blogging, you will most likely be turning to your planned list of titles and more likely be drafting fresh content based on market trends, current affairs and recent customer questions.
Good examples of blogging
The Chiropractic Place, Darwin, is a great example of a business using blogging effectively. You can read more about them in a profile on The RITE Series blog in a post entitled, Darwin chiropractors show how to crank out the blogs without pain.
Desert Life, a wildlife-related business in Alice Springs, uses WordPress to run a website and host a blog. You can learn more via a previous article in The RITE Series entitled, Be your own media.
Things to avoid when blogging
Reproducing other people’s material should never happen. If you have been inspired by a blog or article online, by all means refer to it, summarise it and quote from it, but be sure to share a link to it AND to tell us why it inspired you. We will be reading your article for YOUR wisdom and voice.
Avoid flowery language or marketese. If you write your blog articles like advertisements us readers are likely to treat them like advertisements and dismiss them.
If you have examples of Top End businesses using blogging effectively, please share details in the comments field below.