Success at blog marketing depends on a myriad of content, design, technical, and promotional factors. Though it would be prohibitively exhausting to excel at all of them simultaneously, the good news is that there are many small changes you can make that can significantly improve the success of your blog content over the long term.
Whether you’re just starting to explore the world of blog marketing, looking to spruce up the look and feel of your existing blog, or are ready to take your efforts and expertise to the next level, the 65 tips (8 more than when I wrote the original post two years ago) on this handy checklist will support your journey to blogging success.
Blog marketing 101
- Develop a basic blog marketing strategy. This can be as simple as determining who your audience will be, defining the goal you want to achieve with your blog (e.g., generating awareness, increasing leads, boosting sales, informing people about industry issues, etc.), deciding how you will distinguish your content from that of your competitors, and determining how you will source your content (e.g., will you use staff-written posts, feature curated content, offer guest posting opportunities?).
- Establish an editorial policy. Answer questions like:
- What kind of content should be included?
- Will we discuss relevant news items or just link to others’ coverage of them?
- Should writers be limited to sharing facts, or will you encourage them to tell stories and weigh in with strong opinions?
- Will we talk about our employees?
- Will we share pertinent case studies?
- What do we want to avoid doing on the blog?
- Who signs off on what gets published, and how much latitude should we grant to authors?
The bottom line is that your blog marketing content sources should ultimately serve your preferred readers, so keep them in mind as you make your editorial decisions.Your #blog marketing #content should serve your preferred readers says @mikeonlinecoach Click To Tweet
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- Define a niche that you will focus on covering – and don’t waver from this. It’s best to write about what you know best and use your blog as a forum for sharing your knowledge in this area.
- Define your intended voice and tone. If you’re the author, what’s your writing style like? Are you funny, provocative, or straightforward? Even if you have a corporate blog with multiple writers, you can still determine whether all posts should communicate with a particular attitude, or if you are OK with each writer speaking in his or her own style.
- Back up the contents of your blog on a regular basis so you don’t lose your archived content in case of server failure or other tech issues.
- Foster trust in the authority of your blog content by including an About Us page on your blog site to adequately convey why you’re an expert on the topics you cover or why your company is an industry authority on those issues.
- Create a commenting policy that your team can honor. Everyone should clearly understand when it’s appropriate to respond to comments or delete them (or at least alert the author to something that needs to be reviewed). Your posts don’t need to accommodate hateful comments or spam, but you should be open to critical comments, as these might drive ongoing conversations – and increase engagement.
- Create a plan for tracking your key performance indicators (KPIs), like social shares, comments, page views, leads, etc., depending on what the goals are that you have determined for your blog. How will you determine these blog marketing metrics, how will you keep track of them, and how and when will you review them to identify opportunities for improvement?
- Learn how a single blog post can inspire other content pieces. Tom Pisello elaborates on this in his CMI post, 23 Ways to Leverage a Blog Post for Content Marketing Success.
- Stick to a schedule. Active blogs that publish on a regular, reliable schedule provide greater benefits for your business in terms of SEO, brand awareness, leads, and engagement.
- For inspiration and ideas, spend some time looking at other successful blog marketing efforts, like Cvent’s Event Planning blog — a 2014 Content Marketing Award recipient that serves as a great example on many fronts, including structure, tone, relevance, and engagement.
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Design, user experience, and technical details
You want readers to look to your blog for the great content it provides. But don’t underestimate the role that the design, structure, and overall user experience play in blog marketing success. Even if you publish the most epic content possible, you’ll lose your audience if your content is poorly organized, visually confusing, or doesn’t function properly.Don’t underestimate the role design, structure, & UX play in #blog marketing success via @mikeonlinecoach Click To Tweet
Keep the following blog marketing guidelines in mind:
- It’s OK to buy a theme someone else created. But it’s best if you adapt stock themes so that they match your company’s main branding guidelines and communication principles. It’s not just the overall layout and the navigation that you need to worry about — consider the smaller details, like whether fonts and colors are a good fit, as well.
- Create responsive blog designs so your content will look good on multiple devices and screen sizes, including tablets and smartphones.
- Make sure your search boxes are clearly visible on your blog page and that your post results are formatted in a clear fashion. If you use a content management system (CMS), you should be able to adjust the settings for the search results page through the admin dashboard. Otherwise you may need to ask your IT or web development department to adjust this for you.
- Posts should reference related posts, whenever possible. This encourages visitors to stay involved with your blog for more than a few minutes.
- Customize your 404 error pages. Don’t settle for the default look and feel. This way, even if readers reach a dead end, they know what to do to get what they are looking for.
- Include a “popular posts” section to lead readers to other posts on related topics that may appeal to them.
- If your blog covers many topic categories, you don’t need to waste precious space by displaying every single one of them. Simply list the topics that are most relevant to your business, and include a link to a page (or sitemap) where the full list of categories can be found.
- Don’t detract from your blog content by including long lists of category tags at the beginning or end of posts. Assign only a couple categories to each post to cut down on the clutter.
- Include the author’s bio and headshot on every post. If you use WordPress for blog marketing, consider asking blog contributors to establish a Gravatar account, which you can integrate into their user profiles and enables their headshots to appear with their posts.
- Fight and manage comment spam by monitoring the conversations that take place on your blog posts. Tools like Akismet and Disqus will help you do this.
- Consider whether it would be appropriate for music to play automatically when someone visits your blog page, or a particular post. Though this may enhance your content and make for a richer user experience in certain cases, some users may find the sound to be distracting and annoying.
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General writing and editing tips for blog marketing
You need to plan well, make practical choices, and do everything you can to get and keep readers’ interest. Here are just a few ideas – from having backup plans to headline writing best practices:
- Draw inspiration for your posts from your personal experiences. Tell stories about solutions that have worked in your business or lessons you have learned on challenges that your readers may also be facing.
- Supplement your own insights by writing about exceptional advice offered by other bloggers or experts in your industry. It’s always good to offer your readers outside perspectives.
- Always have a backup plan for keeping your blogging efforts on track. If a piece of content falls through or the editing process is taking too long, have some shorter posts on hand that you can plug in at the last minute to fill the gap.
- Make sure you create captivating headlines, and support them with relevant keywords you have researched (more SEO tips are outlined below).
- Keep paragraphs to a few sentences in length, and consider converting lists of text into bullet points. Readers need visual breaks, and they’ll appreciate the resulting white space that helps make your content more digestible.
- Use numbers and adjectives in headlines to grab attention and convey the specific value provided by a post. A headline like, 8 Easy Ways to Address Customer Complaints, sounds a lot more interesting and actionable than a post titled, Dealing With Angry Customers.
- Use call-to-action (CTA) words like “download,” “get,” and “learn” to guide readers toward the next step you want them to take after engaging with your blog content.
- Proofread every piece of content for grammar and spelling errors before you publish it. Or, better yet, use a professional copy editor who can address grammar issues and improve copy that isn’t clear.
- Use images to support what you’re writing about. Don’t settle for stock art all of the time. Try creating screenshots and adding commentary to them using an image editing tool, like Photoshop, Pixlr, etc. Use arrows, circles and other effects to clearly illustrate what you’re referring to in your blog content.
- Ask readers to tell you what they’d like to learn from you. Try going beyond just inviting comments by including a short survey or poll in your content.
CMI uses custom graphics for its articles and weekly podcast posts.
- Follow the additional headline tricks outlined in CMI’s post, Increase Content Marketing Success With Helpful Headline Tips & Tools.
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If you want your blog post to show up on search engines, you need to follow some critical steps with blog marketing:
- Have a primary keyword phrase in mind as you write. It must be used several times in the post. Don’t aim too high. Settle for keyword phrases that aren’t too competitive.
- Log in and use the full features of the popular Google Keyword Planner. But don’t hesitate to try other free and paid keyword tools.
- Your developer can help to ensure that your blog is set to “www” or “non-www” — allowing both will appear as duplicate content to search engines.
- Take care with URLs. It doesn’t make sense for them to include all the words in your post title. Instead, pick three or four critical words (including your keyword) and call it a day. Long URLs aren’t as effective as shorter ones when it comes to SEO, so why waste the space you have on unnecessary words like “of,” “that,” and “you” when they aren’t part of your keyword phrases?
- Include relevant keywords in the file names of each image you include in a post (use dashes to separate each word in the name, like “Blog-Marketing-Success-Tips-List”).
- Write a brief image alt tag (up to 15 words) for each image you post. This will display when users aren’t able to load the full image, and helps tell search engines more about the visual content you include in your posts.
- Keep your SEO page title to fewer than 70 characters, including spaces. Include the most important keyword phrase at the front of your SEO title. Some marketers suggest 55 to 60 characters because of design updates on Google’s search results. But Google isn’t clear about how many characters it considers with rankings. Even the words that don’t appear with search results may have an impact. See my CMI article, SEO Page Titles: 15-Point Checklist for B2B and B2C Brands for related tips.
- Don’t forget to add a meta description of around 150 characters (including spaces). Use words like “learn,” “find out,” and “get” to draw in readers (who will see this description in search engine results pages).
- Get a handle on all keyword phrases you’re including in your overarching blog marketing strategy. When you have the opportunity, link those keywords to other posts you’ve written.
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Spreading the word with blog marketing
Start by making sure that you’re reasonably engaged with social media and that it’s prominent in your design. Here are other tips, including competitive research and link building:
- Integrate your social media accounts with your blog pages, so you can easily share your new blog content across your networks, and keep track of conversations that are taking place on relevant topics.
- Participate on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other forms of social media. Engage with people who seem to have relevant interests. If they like the things your company posts about, some one-on-one interaction can increase the likelihood that they will seek out your blog for more of your insight.
- Similarly, stay active in at least a few LinkedIn groups, and weigh in on what others are saying about topics you cover in your blog posts.
- Encourage sharing by including social media buttons for all the most frequently used networks for your industry, and make sure these are easily visible to everyone visiting your blog pages.
- Test the parameters for promoting your posts through social media. For example, there are times that may be more ideal for posting about your content than others.
- Set up an RSS feed so your blog content can easily be syndicated and accessed, whenever and wherever your subscribers prefer to consume it.
- Make it easy for people to subscribe to your blog. Include prominent subscribe buttons, calls to action, and links so that converting from a one-time viewer to a regular reader is as easy a process as possible.
CMI makes its subscribe functionality available on all its blog pages.
- Periodically, look at what your competition is doing to promote their blogs. For example, I routinely use the MOZ Open Site Explorer tool to find out who links to my clients’ competitors (a feature that is available with a paid subscription).
- Keep on the lookout for new link-building opportunities. Relevant links drive traffic and can influence search engine rankings — both of which are essential for blog marketing success.
- Reach out to other bloggers on a regular basis. Comment on their blogs, ask them questions about their posts, or engage them in other relevant conversations. Promote what they’re writing about on your blogs, as well — but don’t forget to credit them for their insight and ideas. They’ll likely return the favor when you create compelling content their audience would benefit from seeing.
- Respond to reader comments and questions as quickly as possible. This is an easy way to hold their interest, and show that you value their input and that you are responsive and trustworthy.
- Make sure your blog is clearly visible and easily accessible from your company’s main website (it shouldn’t be buried in the footer).
- Encourage employees to promote your blog posts on their own social networks, when appropriate.
- Check out Marcus Sheridan’s post, The Ultimate 11-Step Plan to Launching a Successful Business Blog in 6 Months, for additional helpful tips.
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Your ability to succeed with blog marketing depends more on understanding your target audience members and giving them content they will crave (and share) than almost anything else.
How do these tips and tasks compare with what you’re already doing? What additional tips, tools, and ideas have worked well for your blog marketing efforts? If you have other suggestions, please share them with your fellow content marketers in the comments.
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
Expand your content marketing skill set in person with leading experts on content marketing who will share what’s worked for their enterprises and offer tips on what could work for yours. Register today for Content Marketing World Sept. 6-8.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute