better blogging

Author: Maggie Jones

Having a blog for your business used to be a “nice to have”– great if you needed a project for your summer intern, or a centralized location for SEO-boosting content. Today, blogs are practically required of companies who take their marketing seriously, and for good reason – they’re a relatively inexpensive, but highly effective investment of your money and time.

A well-written, relevant blog can have a huge impact on your reputation within your industry, and your ability to connect with your customer-base. It also affects your company’s bottom line – according to InsideView, companies with an active blog generate 67% more sales leads per month.

That said, as blogs have become more common, the “blogging bar” has definitely been raised. It’s no longer enough to throw up the occasional press release. Your audience expects more. So if you’re hesitant to launch your company’s blog – or you’ve already launched it, but it needs a little love – here’s my 3-step guide to better blogging:

1. Establish a cadence you can maintain.

You know the old saying – “The best exercise program is the one you’ll actually do”? Don’t make a huge commitment to your blog before you’ve written a single post. Start small – you don’t have to post every day, or even every other day. The most important thing is to be consistent. If you find that a few posts a week is no problem, you can gradually bump up your output.

To ensure your blog’s consistent output, it’s important to establish who will be responsible for maintaining it. At Marketo, the blog falls under our content marketing function; other companies consider their blog to be a function of PR. But regardless of who technically “owns” the blog, you should encourage your entire company to think of the blog as their own. After all, your blog is the voice of your company – not just a voice of your company.

Tip: Create an internal blogging program to encourage everyone in your company to contribute. At Marketo, we operate under the theory that no one knows more about implementation than our consultants, for example, and no one knows more about our nurture programs than the guy who built it.

2. Find something to write about.

It should go without saying that your blog isn’t purely a place to pitch your newest product or talk about your company’s latest accomplishments. I mean, you can certainly do it that way – but good luck getting readership (beyond your CEO’s mom). At Marketo, we use the 4-1-1 rule for our content: we create at least four pieces of educational/entertaining content and one piece of “mid-stage” (partially promotional and partially educational) content for every one piece of highly promotional content. On our blog, however, it’s more like the 10-1-1 rule — we hardly run any promotional content at all.

“But if I’m not promoting myself,” you might wonder, “what am I supposed to write about?” The sweet spot of your blog’s content is the intersection of two groups of topics: topics that your company can speak credibly to, and topics that your audience is interested in. Generate a list of your company’s “areas of expertise,” and then make a list of subjects within those areas that your audience is likely to care about.

For example, Marketo’s “areas” might be: marketing automation, email marketing, personalization software, content marketing, etc. That’s a pretty broad range of expertise, so the topics we write about are broad as well – in the last week alone, we’ve written about content marketing ROI, branding in the World Cup, and stories from marketers in our community.

Tip: Create an editorial blogging calendar, including upcoming events, holidays, international sporting events, product launches – anything you think might be relevant to your audience. This will help you think of topics when you’ve got a bad case of blogger’s block.

Of course, figuring out what you’re an expert in is (hopefully) easy; figuring out what your audience likes isn’t always so obvious. That’s where the third item on this list comes in…

3. Test and recalibrate

It happens to the best of us – you have a topic you’re excited to write about, and you’re sure that your audience will be just as excited to read it…but you’re wrong. The upside is that, as long as you’re measuring engagement with your blog, even mistakes add a new data point to your future planning.

At Marketo, we look at “vanity metrics” like shares, Likes on Facebook, and tweets, but we also look at bigger sets of data. Using Google Analytics, we can see which posts are the most viewed, which lets us know which topics our audience is the most excited by. And using our own multi-touch attribution capabilities, we can also see where our blog contributed to sales revenue – when it comes to measuring your blog’s ROI, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Tip: Experiment with a variety of topics, but also test different styles of titles, different kinds of calls-to-action, and different ways of promoting your blog on social media. You might be surprised by the difference a hot hashtag or a provocative title can make.