Captain's log, stardate d317.y36/AB
We’ve been blogging for some time now, and we’ve learnt a thing or two. Because we’ve adopted transparency as an integral part of the company culture, we like sharing what we learn with you. It’s a genuine way to give back to the community that has helped so much become what we are now.
In this entry, we will cover how to create a blogging strategy for your company.
We’re really proud of how and what we blog, because it helps us keeping track of our evolution as a global development shop, and feel like this could prove useful to many others that come after us. Exactly the same way we learnt from others like Buffer, Dockyard, Thoughtbot or other blogs we follow.
A few weeks ago we published the first part of our blogging guide. In the first part, we described how to craft a good blog post, by choosing a good title, the appropriate keywords, a fitting image, and other important criteria bloggers follow.
Blogging is nowadays a very important element in growing your company: it is one of the cheapest methods to create inbound marketing, provides SEO, and helps you demonstrate your expertise to a very large audience.
In this second part, we’re going to describe how to choose a blogging strategy for your company.
Choose a goal
First and foremost, one must identify what is the purpose of his/her blog. A blog can be a good tool to publish news about your company, how-to guides, inspirational stories, funny viral content or almost whatever you like.
One of the most common uses is content marketing. In this case, companies blog about the topics they want to be identified with and thus, they create new content for their site on a frequent basis. This content, in turn, attracts potential customers to their sales funnel. Google and most search engines like original content that updates regularly, hence being blogs a most useful tool.
At MarsBased we use it to drive qualified traffic to our website, so we made it a key element in our sales toolset.
When we created the company, we didn’t have that much of a strategy, so we wrote posts about our company evolution: what we did and why we did it. However, some of these posts helped us rank high enough in search engines because they contained the right keywords. For instance, our most visited blog entry is this one we wrote about our tech stack.
We have received a couple of project requests because of our post about technologies. In that post, we didn’t only show our expertise on the listed tools, but the content also made us rank higher on Google, especially in high-demanded technologies like Angular or Sidekiq because they’re specific enough to be very visible to the few people that google them.
And that brings us onto the next section.
Key question: what do you want your blog to be known for?
Identify your target and blog for it
Once you’ve selected the purpose of your blog, you need to choose the audience. Who will read your blog?
Well, chances are you will want the whole world to read your blog from the get-go. However, it is a nearly impossible task to bring a generic blog to big audiences by making it grow organically.
If your target audience is the whole world, you are probably doing something wrong. You’d better hire somebody skilled in growth-hacking, or use paid marketing strategies (SEM) to achieve rapid growth. But we will not be covering this scenario in our guide.
A safer way is to choose a very defined audience and go for it. For instance, if your product is a fitness app, you should blog about fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyles to attract your target audience: nutritionists, people that want to get fit, gym rats, personal trainers, and the like.
In our case, we want to build trust with companies we haven’t met yet and attract potential clients, by proving our expertise in web development. Therefore, we are sharing how we work, what we do, and things that are interesting to C-level personnel, our entry point in most companies.
Defining a target audience will also help you choose the kind of content and the language level. You can blog about marketing for the CMOs, tech stuff for CTOs and productivity for CEOs. Having multiple targets or multiple topics is not less effective, so long as it is part of your business strategy and you cater all of them accordingly.
As for the language, technical posts might have technicisms, but it does not hurt to explain the acronyms or lead the reader somewhere where he/she can find the definitions (e.g: "If you don’t know what Inbound Marketing is, read this post over here…”). The more specific your target audience is, the more niche keywords you are allowed to use. Elsewise, if you’re targeting a massive audience, you will have to use very high-level and generic language, avoiding all sorts of acronyms, technical words or jargon.
Key question: What readers do you want to engage with through your blog and what do you need of them?
Define your topics
Once you have chosen your goal and your audience, you must identify what will be interesting to your target readers.
The best blogs often cover just one specific topic. It might be travel, entrepreneurship, productivity, cuisine or knitting. But some blogs cover many topics to attract different sorts of target readers.
If you’re bootstrapping a company, you will most likely neither have the time to blog, nor the resources to have somebody do that for you. A good tip is to start small by covering a single topic. For instance, our buddies at Quipu, a personal finances app (built using Ruby on Rails!), chose to target small companies and freelancers/contractors that want to automate their bookkeeping. As a result of that, they are blogging about personal finances: how to do paperwork, how-to guides on taxes & forms, common mistakes in bookkeeping and tips about saving money on taxes are some of the topics they’ve dealt with.
It might look obvious, but if you write about startups and entrepreneurship, don't review your most favourite restaurants. It's OK to go offtopic every once in a while, but not every second post.
The bottom line here is that choosing the right topics attracts like-minded people, it’ll rank great in Google and you can share it in niche groups or publications to be exposed to a larger audience.
Key question: What field(s) is your company most proficient in?
Measure your tempo
It is a common mistake to start writing a blog with nothing to publish. Most people build up a few posts before launching the blog so that they can publish stacked posts for the first weeks, without having to worry about running out of content.
But even if you’re really committed to writing frequently, chances are, in your first blog you’ll write very effusively for some time and then will stop after a few weeks. That is why you should include the posting frequency in your strategy.
It is better to define a frequency and follow it strictly. For instance, at MarsBased we decided to post once a month a while back ago, and since earlier this year we’ve achieved it. Now we plan to blog twice a month to include a technical post, and a non-technical post to cater our different targets.
A good advice is to define a minimum, never a fixed number. It is better to say “I will post at least once every fortnight” than “I will publish 3 posts a month”. This way, if you're really prolific one month, you can go over your goal.
As you grow your company, you will also want to grow your content team. Likewise, depending on how important is the blog to your goals, you will increase the number of posts per month/week/day at a sustainable pace.
There are a few variations of the sentence “Content is king”. We’d like to add our bit to it: “Content is king, constancy is queen”.
Key question: How often can you afford making your blog your first priority?
Pick a date & time
Once you have defined your blog frequency, you need to select what days & times are better for your readers.
First of all, you should take into account your timezone. Say, if you’re an offshoring development company from India and your target is the UK, try posting in their morning, so that people read your blog first thing during breakfast or during their commute to work. Also, companies targeting US clients should choose between East & West Coast. A good tactic is to publish for East Coast first, and then publish the link in the social networks for each different time zone you might have defined as target (West Coast, Japan, etc.).
According to Buffer and other social media gurus, the best time to blog is either early in the morning or right after lunch. There does not seem to be a consensus on which days of the week are better for blogging. Test it for yourself.
Test, measure, repeat. Google Analytics, Medium and many Wordpress plugins are really effective when measuring the impact of your blog posts. By using them, you can understand your audience and adjust your publishing times to them. Key question: When are your target readers most prone to devote some time to read you?
Produce content worth sharing
We don’t really know a lot about how to monetise a blog, so this tip goes to bloggers that want to get exposure organically.
One of our favourite social media gurus, Guy Kawasaki, explained what is the most effective tactic to be noticed on social networks. His advice is to create content worth sharing. Your content can be inspiring, educational, fun, viral, give free content or what have you, but it should really get your audience to spread the word for you.
Social media is your friend and can really boost your number of views and shares: aim for retweets or shareable content. Not only will the entry be good, but you can also test stuff outside of the content. For instance, Buffer test their blog posts titles using the social networks. They share each blog entry with three or four different titles and perform A/B testing. The tweet that gets more visits, retweets, likes and favourites is the best title for the blog. This is only a way to A/B test it, but there are millions of ideas out there! Be creative!
Social networks also offer a great chance to engage with your community. For those old enough to have used internet forums back when they were the thing - in the pre-Google or pre-Myspace days - we saw people posting stuff in forums to get like-minded people’s opinion and interesting discussions. You can do the same here, by wrapping up the post with a call to action, as we said in the first part of our blogging guide.
We can also learn a lot from Instagram, where famous Instagrammers ask to “tag a friend” when that photo relates to them in any way. Hence, we can ask our friends or colleagues to comment on a post we wrote if we think it applies to them.
Key question: if you read this blog entry somewhere else, would you share it?
Content must be educational and inspiring
One thing that works very well for me, when I am looking for new ideas, is to read a lot of blogs. From there, I always spot one or two blog entries that catch my attention and I want to mimic.
We've got a Trello board for our blog posts.
These posts were inspirational: not only do they make me want to write something similar for MarsBased, but they might also inspire us to adopt some new tools, strategies or techniques in our daily routines.
On the other side, the content needs to be also useful and teach you something new. It must educate. This is especially so for companies like ours that want to prove their technical skills before they get hired.
Key question: What are your favourite blogs and why?
Make it visible
One tremendous mistake bloggers make is not letting the world know they have a blog.
Come on, you’ve spent time setting up a blog, creating a brand for it - if not company -, researching, writing content, picking nice images, tweaking its look & feel, selecting the keywords and all these chores, yet you don’t tell every soul about it.
Things you can do:
- Update all your social media profiles to link to your blog.
- Add it to your LinkedIn profile in the “URLs” section.
- Join blog listings.
- Post your content in LinkedIn/Google+/Facebook groups.
- Automate your social network accounts to publish automatically every new entry using tools like IFTTT.
- Ask famous people on Twitter to retweet you (do it only if the content relates to them).
- Add it to your signature.
Key question: Where do you want your blog to get noticed?
Congratulations if you have made it this far. Now it's time to define your strategy and blog your way to success!
Let us know if we have missed something in our comments section!