Regardless if a business sells gluten-free pasta, real estate software or coaching services, a blog is the most powerful marketing tool.
First, let’s address a vital element that is typically overlooked. A blog helps establish the voice and tone of the business, displaying the personality and core values of the overall brand.
This is something that is sometimes missed in traditional blogging efforts, but now, more than ever, people want to work with those that they trust.
A blog is the easiest way toward building – and sustaining – a trusted relationship.
Blogs, if created with SEO in mind on a frequent and consistent basis, will help a website garner much stronger search engine results.
With blogs, you can chase longer-tail keywords that will earn views from more qualified prospects – those looking for some exact information.
With the correct strategy, a blog campaign can also speak to various prospects in the inbound sales funnel – those who are looking to be educated to those ready to buy.
And blogs are also the endless fuel for other marketing channels, including social media posts, newsletters and providing useful and linkable information for others within your niche.
Sadly, many agencies and businesses continue to keep blogging on the proverbial backburner. The main reason is blogging is not a short-term power play.
Blogging is for the long term, and if a business leader is truly a visionary, they’d understand the value of a strong blog campaign – one that would build their brand awareness and search results over the next year versus dumping thousands into a paid search campaign for the short-term benefits.
Yes, many, especially those who sell products, need the strength of Google Ads and Facebook advertising. But nothing will create a brand’s authority stronger than optimal content marketing, which is driven by blogging – strategic blogging, that is.
Here’s where many agencies and businesses go wrong.
Many agencies and clients I’ve worked with made the mistake of only discussing the products or services without ever bringing a personality or emotion to the strategy.
Some failed to think of SEO, and others failed in consistency.
And many had a blog strategy, but then outsourced the work to the cheapest freelancers available. There’s no doubt that idea was not sustainable. The work may be super cheap but so will the results.
Over the past few years, I’ve stuck to a few core principals – all learned through what mistakes I’ve witnessed with new clients and other agencies over the past decade.
Here are the top five mistakes you should avoid when creating a blog strategy and each blog itself.
- 1 Mistake 1: Not Performing 3 Layers of Research
- 2 Mistake 2: Not Creating Content for Various Target Audiences in Various Buying Stages
- 3 Mistake 3: Not Thinking of Frequency & Consistency
- 4 Mistake 4: Writing Without SEO Guidelines on a Technically Sound Platform
- 5 Mistake 5: Forgetting About a Strong Editorial Process
- 6 Concluding Thoughts
Mistake 1: Not Performing 3 Layers of Research
Lack of research before a campaign is the biggest mistake I see.
Three types of research should be performed before a word is typed:
- Overall market analysis
- Target audience analysis
- Traditional competitive research
Overall Market Analysis
You’ll want to get an overall snapshot of your market, including its size, profitability, distribution channels, trends, and growth rate.
Unlike the other two, the market analysis doesn’t need a crazy amount of energy. It’s just good to know what the big picture is across the industry.
Do a quick search of “(industry) market analysis 2019”, and you’ll find loads of reputable sources to create a snapshot of this information. The data can also be used in blogs for research, so make sure all the research is fresh.
The other two are more valuable for blogging and require more time.
The strategist should get some crucial questions answered first by asking various players of a business who their target audience is.
This information should be sourced from everyone from the CEO to CMO to the sales/customer reps.
It helps to ask across a company because sometimes you’ll get a few different answers. This is where you can help a business further refine their target audience, and provide more value than the blog itself.
Once you got a grasp of the target audience, you must learn everything about them.
- What questions are they asking online (forums, social media, etc.)?
- What’s their income?
- What’s their buying habits?
- What services or products are they using that you can replace and do better?
Again, all this data will be used within the blogs and can help you create various blog topics you would have never explored.
Just typing in niche-specific keywords in Reddit or Quora will show you loads of questions that your target audience is asking. Your goal is to answer those questions with a personality specific to your brand.
In this third layer of blog-strategy research, you take snapshots of exactly what your biggest competitors are doing.
- What topics are they exploring?
- How often are they posting?
- What keywords are they ranking for?
- What’s their overall website information (traffic, top-ranking blogs, CTA usage, paid advertising ads and spend, etc.)?
I typically look at five – three directly from the business leaders who say who their top competitors are, and two from SEO tools that show who the top competitors are from an SEO perspective.
And remember one thing when doing competitive research: it’s just for insights, not mimicking.
Just because one blog topic is working for a competitor doesn’t mean it’ll work for your business or client of your agency.
My agency mostly uses competitive research for keywords we want to focus on and to basically see what we can do better.
Once these three levels of data are compiled, it can also be used as a baseline for progress going forward. Make sure to include a snapshot of the business’s data before this strategy even begins.
Most leaders will want loads of vanity metrics, such as increased traffic or rankings for broad keywords that are sometimes impossible to rank for.
It’s the agency or blogger’s responsibility to be a guide and educator, and explain quality over quantity, showing metrics like rankings for keywords that are actually converting.
On the subject of being an educator, one must also explain that this is a long-term play.
I tell clients at minimum true results won’t show until 6-12 months of consistent blogging.
Though results come in sometimes much quicker, it’s always good to stick with the adage of over delivering versus overpromising.
The time and money spent here are vital to serious success. Again, this is what separates a viable blog strategy over just hiring some freelancer and providing a list of topics.
Mistake 2: Not Creating Content for Various Target Audiences in Various Buying Stages
Go online and research companies within your niche. For those that have a blog, check out the content:
- Is it written for those in the beginning stages of learning or those who know everything and are ready to buy?
- Or is it basically an outline of the services or products that the company sells?
A quick example, even if your selling baby food to moms everywhere in suburbia America, you must create content that speaks to those at different levels of the sales funnel.
- Some – say a pregnant woman not ready to buy – will research to simply be educated on various types of baby foods, and asking things like what makes one healthier than another. Here the blogs must address the simplest forms of education.
- Others will be in the middle of a sales funnel, knowing they need food but are looking to refine their reasoning for one brand over another, such as the benefits of organic baby foods. Here the content can get much deeper to show your authority.
- The third is the one who wants to purchase immediately – they know everything are basically looking for a trusted brand. Here the content can be seriously in depth – but with a focus on the personality and core values of your brand up front. Basically, the content should address the trusted factor.
Though the percentage of what audience to target your blog efforts for will change based on the business, most revolve around the simple formula:
- 50% educational content for those needing to learn – even the basics.
- 25% educational content for those ready to buy, but need more focused and deeper content.
- 25% content for those ready to buy now – deep into the products/services with a focus on the trust factor.
Mistake 3: Not Thinking of Frequency & Consistency
When growing as an entrepreneur over the past few years, two terms have always been at the forefront of my progress: patience and discipline. Without either, I’d see failure.
In the world of blogging, two terms to live by are frequency and consistency. This goes for your content calendar and days/times of uploads, to the consistency of voice, tone, and style across all your blogs.
Sure, you may be speaking to three different target audiences in various stages of the sales funnel as explained in mistake #2, but your voice, tone, and style should be united across each blog.
Voice and tone will all be contingent on each brand. If the tone is laid back, stick with that style across each blog.
We also recommend the same for all content on the website, social media, and newsletters.
The tone should be the same across each outlet, which will show consistency across your brand. This will help make that brand’s identity unique, and everyone will see that immediately.
- As for style, do you write in short, choppy sentences?
- In regards to guidelines for styles of writing, do you adhere to AP or APA?
- Do you write many listicles, and stick to the same format each time such as numbering conventions for each point?
- Do you mention #1 or the final number first?
These are all things to ask, and it doesn’t matter what your tone or style of writing is – as long as it’s consistent.
Mistake 4: Writing Without SEO Guidelines on a Technically Sound Platform
Before I work with a client, I run a quick SEO audit of their website.
If they are missing the vital things (e.g., speed, duplicate pages, missing title tags, non-unique meta descriptions), I’d recommend completing an audit first and addressing the main issues.
A blog strategy can’t reach its full intention until the core SEO issues are addressed.
All blogs must also be written with SEO in mind.
After I complete the necessary research and create the strategy and blog calendar, I provide my writers with “SEO Content Templates”. These are basically guidelines for exactly what’s needed, including:
- The optimized headline.
- Focus keyword.
- All related keywords needed for user intent.
- A list of the top URLs for research.
Again, this is something that’s tough to find with many of the freelancers you can find online – some working for as much as a penny a word.
Mistake 5: Forgetting About a Strong Editorial Process
This is huge.
You can have the most optimized platform, blog posts, voice and consistency in the world, but if your grammar is sloppy, or your information is not factually correct, your prospective clients will go elsewhere – and quickly.
For our campaign clients, I use a seven-layer blog creation process that blends in best practices of grammar, style, fact-checking, and SEO.
The process begins at stage one, individual keyword research and SEO Content Templates that have optimized titles that adhere to an overall blog-calendar strategy.
Once the first draft comes in, it goes through factual edits, then another round for grammar/style.
Then there’s a third edit of SEO elements and creation of a “plug n’ play” document that we provide to clients if they do uploading in house.
Even then I ask them to allow my agency to perform one more edit in preview mode – on their actual website – before allowing it to go live.
The viewing environment changes quickly when it goes from Google Doc or Word to the actual website. This allows an editor to truly look at a blog with fresh eyes.
I do the same if we are doing the uploads, which we do for 90% of our clients – this truly keeps things hands off, something most clients prefer.
Many businesses, regardless of service- or product-based, don’t understand the power of blogging.
Some do, but go at it haphazardly, doing things as the budget or resources become available.
These types are missing out on the serious potential of blogging, which for those with a long-term vision of their company can be the largest producers of qualified leads and ultimately ROI.
There must be a strategy to truly benefit from everything a blog has to offer, and it begins with avoiding the five mistakes I point out above – mistakes I’ve learned to overcome from over a decade of working with blogs, both as a writer/strategist and now an agency owner with clients who rely on blogs for sales and increased revenue.