Blogging

Hosting a blog is a great way to produce lots of content and to position yourself as an authority in your field, a thought leader. But a blog can also be used as a tool to address buyers at their specific stage of the journey, while at the same time helping them to progress from one stage to another.

At the core of align.me ‘s methodology is the idea of the Buyers' Journey, in which the buyer moves through multiple stages before buying a product or service. Your blog post can focus on troubling the buyer about the problem you solve if they’re still early in their journey, or at least partially troubling them, but mostly blogging will position you as a possible solution provider.

Why blogging?

According to Eloqua's The Grande Guide to B2B Blogging blogs are a top-ranked source for information in the B2B world with 39% of B2B marketers feeling that blog posts are their most valuable content asset and 55% of B2B professionals say they turn to blogs for business information.

In a recent article entitled 'Why Blogging is Even More Critical in the Age of Social', John Jantsch of Duck Tape Marketing, highlighted five key reasons as to why you should consider blogging:

  1. Blogging is the stablest form of SEO: Google often penalises sites by adjusting ranks when it deems that site to be attempting to gain an advantage in an unnatural manor.
  2. Blogging creates a hub for social interaction: Blogging can create a vibrant online network that addresses and challenges and provides useful information. Social networks can also be a great source of daily traffic to your blog.
  3. Blogging builds your email list: The capturing of leads is essential and the greatest way to do that is by creating and promoting valuable content. People willingly exchange their email address in order to receive email they want to open. In regards to blogging, this can be in the form of a subscription to your blog posts.
  4. Blogging drives point of views: Having a consistent and valuable point of view for your business attracts followers over the long haul. Blogging can build credibility and expert status through holding a firm point of view that builds a consistent and attractive brand message.
  5. Blogging creates other options: Creating regular blog content enables you to think about all the ways you might use your total body of work; three blog posts can become the makings of a feature article. Amongst other things, answering the consistently asked questions through your blog posts create useful content and automatically builds a FAQ section.

Sources of content

The sources for producing blog content are endless. There are no rights or wrongs as long as you ensure that it’s valuable to the reader. Desk research and the internet are your obvious sources. Interviewing can also result in great material for a blog post. A twist on generating input is hosting a Q&A session on Twitter. Announce a topic and a guest on your Twitter account, and invite your followers to ask questions. The conversation can be used to write a blog post. Another option is to appoint a thought leader within your company. Include them in the process of building content, and make them ‘the face’ of your blog.

In a digital age sourcing content can be most effective in an interactive form, for example a video. Using the interactive nature of a video will bring life to your blog as well as giving credibility to the argument you are presenting.

For example using Ted Talks Marketing as a source of content can bring both credibility and validity to your business strategy.

Content guidelines

There are no concrete rules regarding the length of blog posts and Kikolani has some great tips on blogging. But generally, blogs fall into the following categories when it comes to blog post length vs. frequency.

• If they tend to have shorter posts (500+ words), they post multiple times a day. • If they tend to have longer posts (900+ words), they post either daily or a few times a week. • If they tend to have super long posts (1,500+ words), they post infrequently – maybe once a week or even a few times a month.

The most important factor is to deliver quality content and to understand your readers. Blogs that post multiple times a day have hit or miss topics, but will usually get the attention of most of their readers at least once a day with a particular topic. Blogs that post lengthier content less frequently know what their audience wants and build the types of posts that lures their readers in almost every time.

Because we tend to have many blogs around a single topic, there is often a common message, and a secondary one. While our secondary message can be anything, the primary message from the blogs needs to frustrate the reader about the problem you solve.

In terms of flow, you blog needs to build to a conclusion. so write the skeleton first to make sure you don't fall in love with the words over the message. Here's an example drawn from a a recent client engagement:

  • Conclusion for this blog should be something about not being able to see the affect on pedestrian flow / amenity of the proposed design because they were only able to see the concept design, not its context
  • To earn the right to make that point, we probably need three things laid out first:
    • Strong civil engineering principles insist on a,b,c (make it sound positive). Use buses as an example
    • Amenity is not just those using the new service, but also cars, pedestrians, tourists. Everything but the buses
    • Some examples of narrow road design
  • Intro should be something about silos

So we’d work that into a flow – same as above but reverse the order:

  1. “Where you stand on a subject depends on where you sit”. Internal rigour + Splendid isolation = Disconnect.
  2. Engineers, do xx / think yy / see zz. This is good. Intro example of buses.
  3. Amenity is not just bus riders, but cars, pedestrians, tourists. Everything but the buses
  4. Example of roads made to wide - helps buses but kills amenity, parks, tourism
  5. Engineers were only looking at the concept design, not its context. Planners (make them the hero) used the Urban Engine to look at the affect on pedestrian flow / amenity / other and realised this was a poor solution, in context. Changed it to xxx. Sydney is one of the world’s great cities, and those guarding its legacy and amenity needed to see all the pieces, not just the proposal.

This doesn’t have to impact the tone (rant, educational, funny, sneaky, cynical ...), just the end to which your blog is leading. BTW, if you do go for a 'rant', make sure to play the ball, not the man.

The key, however, is that your blog is engaging and entices comments. A blog is a useful tool to interact with your prospects and clients. A prompt response to their comments is therefore essential. But what if you receive over a 100 comments? Should you keep the comments in the back end of your website? Create a procedure that captures how to deal with comments, so that you have clarity at all times.

Regardless of your writing style, ensure that you personally address your readers. Prevent yourself from talking to a group of buyers or people in general. Instead of “A problem that companies run into…’ write ‘A problem that you might run into…’. There's a great infographic here on common grammar goofs.

Finally, make it easy for your readers to share your content, and stay up to date. Include social media buttons like Twitter, LinkedIn, RSS and email to ensure your readers can stay in touch.

To find out other types of important content for your blog, click here.

Work the title

There is no point creating great content with a killer call to action if no-one reads it. the Content marketing institute have some great tips on how to make the best titles.

Adding images

Consider adding images to make your blog more appealing.

Here's a list of websites that will help your blog go from drab to fab!


Bloggers who use images, need to understand the basics of Creative Commons. Here's a good layman's explanation. Seems like we can use many images that are made available under Create Commons as long as we properly attribute the creator and provide links to the source.

Using creative icons is also an easy way to enhance your blog.

As mentioned previously, your blog can help buyers progress from one stage of their journey to another. We therefore recommend including a call to action in your blog. Your call to action can vary from downloading a whitepaper, subscribing to your newsletter or making an online enquiry. Even though not all of your readers might be ready to progress to that next stage, it is still worthwhile to include a call to action for those that are.

Here are some websites that will make your call to action undeniable:

Where to host a blog?

Wordpress is a comprehensive, free tool for publishing blogs. Besides hosting, Wordpress provides you with analysis tools, enabling you to monitor the ‘success’ of your blogs. Alternatively, you can host a blog on your website.

We’ve found that blog posts published in the morning generate more traffic and comments, than in the afternoon. However, the key to your postings is rhythm. Ensure a rhythm for your posts, for example every Monday morning, and maintain this practice to build momentum.

10 steps to improve your blog design

1. Emphasise visual content; bold images and punchy headlines rather than lots of writing. Click here for some insight into how to maximise visual colour schemes

2. Make the option of subscribing more appealing. Marketo have a subscribe pop up when the page is opened along with a large ‘subscribe here’ box in a prominent location on the homepage

3. Add relevant suggested blog pages to the bottom of the pages just read to encourage further reading of the wiki.

4. Add succinct ‘Tweetables’ that are readily shareable.

5. Show how many shares the homepage has, (as an aggregate rather than separately for different social media sites) as people like to read what others think are credible.

6. Perfect different looks of the page and loading times for mobile, tablet and desktop.

7. Add most popular posts (editorially and socially shared) to the homepage to encourage more readership.

8. Add links to blog posts to show who’s written them and links to what else they’ve added to the wiki. This makes the posts more personable and memorable if a reader reads multiple posts from someone.

9. Give recognition to any guest writers to the blog.

In summary, it’s better to have an out-of-the-box template that is clean vs. a “unique” design that is out of date, cluttered, or otherwise distracting from the main feature of the blog – the content.

Full article accessible here: Marketo

Podcasting

An alternative to the written word is podcasting, where you record your message, or your interview with an external expert. Here is a list of tools taken from a podcast by John Jantz (Duct tape Marketing):

  • Uses a Blue Yetti USB microphone for his end
  • Skype (Skype in or a Skype account) for the other party
  • Call recorder (a Skype add on) to record both sides of the call separately
  • Garage band (Mac) or Audacity (PC) and uses filters on the master track (compression) to improve the warmth of the sound
  • Hosts the podcast on Libsyn
  • Creates the RSS feed using category feature of Wordpress so it automatically creates its own feed
  • Blubrry Powerpress to enhance the feed, especially for uploading to itunes and for those who don't want to subscribe to itunes
  • Recommends 'The podcast answer man' site (Cliff Ravenswood) for more know how

How to promote your blog?

Once published you need to promote your blog to generate traffic. Twitter, LinkedIn and email are great tools to do so. Write a teaser that provides the essentials of your blog post, and makes people want to read further. To reach a bigger audience, you could consider a partnership. This way your blog gets promoted through your partner’s channels as well. Think carefully about your partner, and determine whether the company is compatible with yours.

The use of other social media tactics can increase traffic to your blog, such as tweeting about it. In fact, it can be managed simultaneously with other social media tactics with a social media monitoring tool. For more information click here

Set up Authorship to get your blog post ranked highly, more quickly. The blogs author needs to be clearly marked in a specific format ‘by [first name] [last name].’ This is done by linking the content you publish (i.e. your blog) to your Google+ profile. Make sure you have a profile photo with a recognisable headshot and that your by line name matches the one on your profile. Instructions on how to set up Authorship are available here.

Encouraging interaction

Bloggers may want to encourage posting / commenting. Our experience with commenting is that it works well with a highly engaged audience - often technical audiences, but is very difficult on typical low-volume B2B sites.

Most companies end up spending hours a day curating spammy posts (even if you use captcha to make sure the spammers are humans). And after the spam has died down: silence. Great tactic for high volume sites, and good use of Google+: Create company page on Google + and share every blog there. Google handles the spam wonderfully well.

Plugins

Plugins can be a source of trouble as well as a tool to extend the functionality of WordPress. John J Duct Tape Marketing chose simplicity and page load speed over other features. Some plugins worth looking at are:

  • Add to Any Allows people to use any tool to subscribe to your blog feed easier
  • Contextual related posts At the end of each blog post, a related posts are added encouraging additional page views and reading
  • Disqus commenting system Cuts spam, adds more interaction
  • Premise Creation tool that makes it easier to create pages outside your theme
  • Sociable Adds social media icons so people can easily share among their networks
  • W3Total Cache Improves speed and user experience
  • WordPress SEO Tool used for quickly adding important SEO elements like title attributes
  • WPTouch Pro Mobile theme tool


B2B blogging success stories

Eloqua's The Grande Guide to B2B Blogging identifies some great examples of effective b2b blogging:

  • Caterpillar

Caterpillar established separate blogs based onindustry (construction, electrical, marine) with sub-categories under each industry (products, safety,problem-solving). This company does a remarkable jobengaging customers, using the community to solve problems, and rewarding customer ideas.

  • Kinaxis

Kinaxis, a supply chain management company, who have done a few things that many B2B blogs are unwilling– or too afraid – to do. For instance, they have opened up their blog to outside bloggers and now, five industry experts blog alongside the 18 Kinaxis employee bloggers. They’re also not afraid to inject humor into their blog. A number of their posts include cartoons or silly photos, proving that entertainment is important.And, the results have paid off. Between 2008 and 2009, they experienced a 2.7 times increase in web traffic, a 3.2 times increase in conversions

  • Hinda Initiatives

Hinda Initiatives is in the reward and incentiveindustry, and they thought their blog could raise awareness and drive traffic to their site. In a short period of time, they reached more than 1,000 visits a month with subscribers from at least 30 different countries. Their overall website traffic also increased by 15 percent. Their blog has also served as a critical PR tool. When a major competitor pulled out of the industry, many turned to the Hinda blog to learn their company’s position on the issue. And, their blog post was also quoted by other blogs, which reinforced their position as a voice of authority in the industry.

  • ManPower

Using traditional research methods, the temporary employment agency discovered that their customer’s biggest information need was keeping up with the confusing topic of employment law. In response, ManPower created a blog specifically on this topic. Although not directly related to selling temporary services, it has differentiated the company as they established themselves as a voice of authority on a strategic level. It also created powerful SEO benefits in the process. If you search for many employment law topics, it’s likely you will be led back to the ManPower blog.

B2B Blogging Inspiration

  • Cisco

Cisco Doesn't just have one blog to boast about, but rather several each pertaining to their various customer segments. It is a plethora of content that is managed by Cisco employees, ranging from insight trade news to marketing tips. This much information can be overwhelming to users if mismanaged, but Cisco's innovative design gives users everything they need and cuts out the mundane. This blog doesn't need to attract users with bells and whistles because of its ability to desegregate the market.

  • General Electric

This blog differentiates itself through the visual element of Inforgraphs. Infographs are summary of an abundance of data that is represented in an appealing way. By leveraging visual media, General Electric highlights innovation and showcases its products in a memorable, meaningful way.

For online tutorials on Infographics click here

  • American Express Open Forum

A Blog can transcend its basic task of merely informing when users are able to interact with the site and create an online community. The American Express Open Forum blog aims to grow and nurture small businesses. It is delivered in the form of an online magazine with sections adhering to business strategy including marketing, leadership, customers and money. Readers are encouraged to comment on these sections and share their stories. Interactivity is supported through accompanying video.

20+ Commonly asked questions about blogging and online marketing

How to moderate comments effectively and provide benefits for your comment authors.

How do you moderate spam? When it comes to blogging, spam can be tough. Try employing some of the following plugins and tactics:

  • Akismet Automatically detects spam and sends it directly to your spam folder, however you still must check the spam folder incase some good comments are accidentally treated as spam
  • GASP Adds a checkbox captcha to comment form
  • Shut off trackbacks and pingbacks
  • Shut off comments after 30 days. While this is not a great option, in combination with the above actions, can significantly cut down on spam

Why do you use the default WordPress comment system? The main reason is because WordPress doesn’t often change the functionality of their comment system. In addition, their system allows the option of backing up comments and if for whatever reason you decide to move posts to a new blog, the blogs are imported with the comments attached. The default comment system also includes:

  • CommentLuv This allows comment authors to leave a link back to their latest post and is free
  • MaxBlogPress Subscriber Magnet
  • Subscribe to Comments This plugin lets people choose which comment threads to subscribe to. You can also see who have subscribe to the most post comments.

Does having CommentLuv hurt your blog, SEO-wise? It depends on how wary you are about moderating your comments. For example, if you are liking good blog posts and blogs, then your blog won't be impacted negatively. However if you like bad blogs and blog posts, then it will.

How long should my blog posts be? There is no clear-cut answer here. Some people believe that if the blog is too long, it will turn off readers. Others believe that a blog post should be as long as it needs to be to fully explain a topic.

Blogs with a large audience, social shares and have a lot of traffic fit into three categories.

  • Shorter posts(500+ words), multiple posts a day.
  • Longer posts(900+ words), daily posts or a few times a week.
  • extensive posts(1500+ words), once a week or a few times a month.

It all comes down to context. What does your audience want. Blogs that post multiple times throughout the day will get the attention of most of their readers at least once a day with hit and miss topics. Blogs that post larger chunks of content less frequently spend more time crafting their posts to what their audience wants to engage their readers.

Sticking to a 500+ word count minimum will give you enough room to be short but succinct and to show readers that you have worthwhile content on your blog.

Should I accept guest posts on my blog? Yes, but be mindful of what people are posting as it may impact on the quality of your blog. It is good idea to have a list of guidelines for guest posts.

Can I republish content from another blog? If your going to publish content from another blog ask for permission first. some blogs post under creative licences which means you can repost it if they are given credit first. Otherwise ask both the site and the author for permission.

Some blogs have a grace period where they want to be the first publisher of the content for a period of time. Others want to be the sole publisher of the content. If you have written on other blogs, make sure you check with the blog owner and ask for permission before you repost it.

Aside from blog posts, what other content should my blog have? Here is a list of pages that are most commonly found in a blog.

  • About page - Tell the reader about yourself and the blog
  • Contact page - Tells people how to contact you. Can include email address, mobile/phone number and links to your social or other networking platforms that contain your details
  • Guest post guidelines-Gives people the guidelines on what you expect.
  • Advertise page - If you want advertising on your blog, show them what you have to offer. This could be your overall audience, traffic and SEO stats.
  • Hire me page - Be sure to list any services you offer on this page so they can learn about your business.
  • Store page - List products on this page so people can easily find and purchase.
  • Pillar pages - Pages that people can go to as a first stop to see what content you have to offer.
  • Archives page - One main archives page that details your blog history by date, category and latest post.
  • 404 page - Bad links are directed to an error 404 page. Take advantage of this by making the 404 page direct them to other parts of the blog instead.
  • Resources page - Create a reference page that details all of the plugins,themes, technology etc. that you might use in your blog.

Does blog design really matter? Firstly, it is vital not to take away from the main point of the blog, content. The design should be clean, easy to navigate and engaging as opposed to unique and cluttered.

What are the most important elements of a blogs layout Your blog should have the following

  • An easily located navigation bar with links to the most important pages and categories of the blog.
  • A side bar that includes the authors name, ways to subscribe including mailing list, RSS and top social networks. A list of categories that your blog covers could be put in if you they aren't already in the navigation bar.
  • Clean, easy to read font
  • Pagitation at the bottom of the homepage and archives to make it easier to navigate through older posts.

Should I have a mobile theme for my blog? Yes, because of the dramatic increase of people browsing the web on their smartphones. To check if your blog needs a mobile theme go to your Google Analytics and look under Audience > Technology > Browser and OS. Switch to screen resolution under primary dimension. This will show you if you are receiving high traffic from smartphones(320x480)and tablets(768x1040). If the answer is yes, then you should get a mobile theme.

"Should I use free or premium themes? Premium themes cost money but they tend to give you much more support and regular updates. Free themes can also be useful but if something goes wrong, it might be a while before the developer fixes the issue or you may have to try and fix it yourself. Sometimes free themes will put links in the footer of your blog that you don't want, which can be hard to remove.

Should I have a mailing list on my blog? A mailing list gives you another way of communicating with your readers. If you have an important message that you want readers to see, you don't have to worry about if they are checking the blog or their Facebook or Twitter accounts. You can contact them directly through their inbox.

You can use mailing lists to

  • Promote your content from your blog and other sites you contribute to
  • Sending out a special, personal message to readers
  • Sharing exclusive tips with readers
  • Promoting your products and services

Isn't Feedburner my mailing list? Feedburner uses a subscribers inbox to deliver your latest blog posts. A mailing list gives you the freedom of customising email messages beyond blog posts at any point.

Who provides great mailing list service? Here are 2 examples of 2 great mailing list services

  • Aweber - Affiliate marketing friendly. Able to send out emails with your latest blow posts.
  • Mailchimp - If you dont belong to certain industries Terms and Conditionsor plan to do any affiliate marketing, then you can have up to 2,000 subscribers(free plan). The monthly plan may could have key features that you may need.

What is the bare minimum on-site optimisation I need for my blog?

  • Ensure that your homepage, blow posts and top pages on your blog have SEO tags and meta descriptions.
  • Include ALT tags for images within your post
  • Use header tags (H2,H3) within your post content. It makes the post easier to read and can help with search if key words phrases are included.

What are the best SEO plugins for WordPress? The SEO fields for title tags, meta descriptions etc. are built into themes like Thesis and StudioPress. They automatically show up in the themes settings and editor for posts.

If you use other themes that don't have these features built in, you should consider the following.

How can I build links to my blog? Here are some ways to build links to your blog

  • Guest Blogging - You will get another author bio and backlink it back to your website
  • Social Profiles - Some social profiles let you link back to your website. There are social networks that will lead to backlinks from other websites. See 15 sites that help use your twitter profile for link building.
  • Directories - Some blogging directories are free but have long wait periods. Others are paid but can be expensive. Some good ones are Best of the Web Blog Directory and Technorati.
  • Interviews - Doing an interview or a roundup post can can lead to a link back to a website of your choice.
  • Forums - Forums can sometimes allow signatures so you should add a link to your blog in your signature.
  • Blog comments - Commenting on blogs allows you to get a link back to your blog. Commentluv blogs allow links back to latest blog posts.
  • Question and answer networks - If your answering questions on networks liked LinkedIn or Quora, if your post can supplement the answer, include it as a reference link.

Here are some things to avoid

  • Link Exchanges - A site offers to link you (on a "resuorce" or "link partners" page)in exchange for you linking to them. These should be avoided unless it is a blogroll link with a highly relevant blog.
  • Link Buying - You should never purchase a link (excluding directories).
  • Spamming - Don't spam blobs and forums just to get links. make sure your posts are valuable.
  • Article Spinning or Duplication - Submitting the same article over and over to article networks will not build quality links. Neither will using software to take that same article and turn it into hundreds with small changes here and there.

What social networks drive the most traffic to a blog? This will depend on your blog and the topics it covers. You can obtain a lot of traffic to your blog if you can get organic submissions (submissions by people that have power on those networks vs self-submitting) to social networks such as StumpleUpon and Reddit.

People with a good sized audience will gain the most traffic from Twitter and Facebook. Blog specific networks like Blog Engage and Blog Interact require you to really draw that community in order to see sugnificant traffic.

How can I get more fans/followers? Here are some ways to boost your social following through blogging .

  • Use official buttons from top networks such as Twitter and Facebook. This allows the reader to connect with you without leaving the blog.
  • Use the Twitter official retweet botton. You should configure it so your name as part of the tweet. It also will recommend that those that posted your tweet follow you.
  • If you have a Facebook fan page on your blog, you should make sure you use this page when you comment on other fan pages, to get more visibility.

How did you add the Social Sharing buttons on your fan page? You can use plugins and add-ons like Sociable and Share This. To get the best results, use the official sharing buttons. Also make sure you can configure the Twitter retweet button to include via @yourusername.

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and ghostwriter who specializes in online marketing Kristi's blog

B2B Blogging Resources

Eloqua's The Grande Guide to B2B Blogging identifies some great b2b blogging resources:

B2B Blogging Tools

  • WordPress – One of the most widely used blogging platforms
  • Blogger – Owned by Google, this is another easy-to-use blogging platform
  • Tumblr – One of the new kids on the block, Tumblr has risen as a fast way to publish content
  • Kapost – Synchs with other blogging platforms to help coordinate, organize, optimize and publish your content
  • Zemanta – Provides suggestions and tools as part of the blog creation process
  • Google Analytics – The most turned-to source for measuring and capturing the performance of your blog
  • Outbrain – Helps businesses make their content more discoverable, particularly through search
  • Technorati – A searchable space for finding blogs and articles by topics. Also, lots of research on blogging
  • Google Blog Search – Google’s search capabilities applied directly to blogs
  • BlogLevel – Made by Edelman, this tools helps find and rank blogs by topic
  • PhotoPin – Free photos for bloggers under the Creative Commons rules
  • iStock – A searchable photo archive for purchasing images
  • Skype Recording Skype conversations can be a useful tool for blogging and podcasting.
  • Ghost - A really sleek and user-friendly blogging platform with inexpensive themes and add-ons.

See also here for a a complete list of tactics