Columnist John Lincoln walks you through some common errors in corporate blogging so that you can avoid the pitfalls and build your brand online.
Content marketing, like any other business initiative, is a learned skill. It’s not as simple as sitting down at your keyboard and typing out a few bits of advice relevant to your niche. (It actually used to be a lot like this, but now it is much more competitive.) In fact, corporate blogging is a learned discipline, just like accounting, marketing and good management.
However, some business leaders see it differently. They think that they can hire a good writer to produce content, publish it on a website and watch the visitors come rolling in.
There’s much more to it than that. You need an intricate understanding of the industry and innovative things to say.
You also need to you know your SEO, social media and email marketing, and you need to understand the promotional formula that goes into blogging, which allows it to be successful. You can blog all day, but if you don’t promote it correctly, you will never reach the levels of success you are looking for.
In short, it’s easy for people new to corporate blogging to make mistakes. Here are the six biggest mistakes I see them making.
1. Failure To Take SEO Seriously
Before even beginning a content marketing strategy for your business, it’s a great idea to take a step back and look at best practices in blogging. In other words, you’re going to want to lay a foundation before you start constructing the building.
Many business leaders fail at that point. Specifically, they don’t design a content marketing strategy with SEO in mind.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when you move forward with your corporate blogging initiative.
Subdomains Are Sub-Par
Some businesses will create a blog that’s a subdomain of their existing domain. In other words, if the company domain is xyz.com, then they’ll create a blog that’s at blog.xyz.com.
Seems harmless enough, right? Wrong.
The fact of the matter is that Google views a subdomain as a separate website. As a result, you’re failing to pass on the benefits of your primary domain (xyz.com) to your blog (blog.xyz.com).
Let me stop right there. That knowledge that I just mentioned about subdomains isn’t something that I would expect you to understand intuitively. Yet it’s an extremely important aspect of SEO and corporate blogging.
That’s why it’s vital that you gain the support of someone who’s knowledgeable in content marketing before you even begin your online strategy. Otherwise, you could really hamper your own efforts.
If you opt to put your blog on the same domain as your primary website (it will look something like xyz.com/blog), then you’ll be sharing page rank benefits between your blog and other parts of your website. That benefits you because it gives your overall site a better chance at improving in the search engine results page (SERP) rankings.
Another reason to put your blog on the same domain is that if you had two separate domains, you’d be limiting the total page count of your website. Google smiles happily on websites with lots of pages (as long as the quality is high) and rewards them with improved rankings. You give up that benefit when you opt for separate domains.
Finally, you wouldn’t be able to do any internal linking between your blog and your company site if you had two separate domains. Even if you do link between the two sites (remember, Google views the subdomain as a separate site), search engines will view that link as an external link, not an internal link.
Also, in many cases, people will put a blog on an entirely different domain. While there can be some benefits to doing this, I feel it is always a best practice to start with your blog on a directory (example.com/blog).
Have A Keyword Strategy
A sound keyword strategy will propel your blog to the top of the SERPs and bring in traffic. That’s why it’s important that you adopt keyword research as a part of your overall inbound marketing effort.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, let me once again point out that keyword research is not something you’ll know how to do instinctively. I’ll go over some of the basics here, but it’s a discipline that’s best left to a qualified digital marketing professional.
The overall effort of keyword research is to find search terms related to your niche that people are plugging into Google. That way, they’ll see your content at the top of the results list, click on it and possibly become paying customers and/or loyal visitors.
The best place to start with keyword research is the Keyword Planner tool in Google AdWords.
You might already be using AdWords to advertise your site online. In that case, you already have access to a powerful keyword research tool from the most popular search engine in the world. Here is an example of selecting a term and using it in a blog post.
You should use the Keyword Planner tool to locate search terms relevant to your niche. Often, you’ll find that Google will suggest search terms you hadn’t thought about that are better for your content.
For example, if you’re marketing discount laptops, you would visit Keyword Planner and plug in “discount laptops” as the search term of your choice. As of this writing, that search term gets 1,900 hits per month, on average.
However, if you click on the “Keyword Ideas” tab, you’ll see some suggestions related to the “discount laptops” term. One of those is “cheap laptops” which receives an astounding 60,500 hits, on average, every month. That might be a better search term to use.
It’s not often the case that keyword research stops with Google AdWords. Usually, you’ll use the Keyword Planner tool as a starting point, then continue your research from there.
You’ll also want to do some research on your competitors before deciding on a keyword that you’ll use in your content. That usually involves getting your hands on a tool like SEMRush and fleshing out how other businesses in your niche are ranking the keyword.
SEMRush will advise you how difficult it is to rank a particular keyword, so that you can make an informed decision. It will also show what your competitors are ranking for the corresponding URLs.
The main goal of blogging is to link to your main services pages and increase their rankings. In addition, you can get some posts ranked on their own.
You can also take all your posts and add them to one page, creating a hub, or piece of content that aggregates all the content on a topic.
Optimize Old Content
Perhaps you’ve been at this corporate blogging thing for a while now. It’s likely that when you started, you didn’t know as much about SEO as you do now. If you’ve been in content marketing for a very long time, then it’s certainly the case that SEO best practices have changed since you started.
That’s why it’s important that you optimize your old content. You want your older inbound marketing efforts to continue to bear fruit in the future.
Review your old content. Find out where it’s falling short (for example, some of the information might be outdated), and change it accordingly. Feel free to post the updated content on social media, where it can be shared again by your followers.
Also, pay attention to older content that’s getting a great deal of traffic. You can use Google Analytics (the “Behavior” section) to determine which of your posts are receiving the most hits.
If it’s older content, review it, and update it as needed. You want to be sure that people who are viewing your most popular content are getting the best information.
2. Not Promoting Content To The Max
You can have the best content in the world on your blog, but if you don’t promote it, nobody will know about it. It’s important that you promote your content so that it gains exposure and reels in people who eventually become paying customers.
Social Media Is Free Advertising
For starters, blast your content across the social media landscape. Your brand should have an account on all major social media channels, and you should use those accounts to share your posts.
The larger your social media community, the more distribution you will have. So make sure to run social media community growth ads.
Social Media Is Also Paid Advertising
Blasting your content to social media channels is a great way to improve your exposure, but the reality is that most people who see it there will be people who are following your social media accounts. Sure, you might snag the occasional viral post that gets shared and re-shared, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
That’s why it’s a good idea to advertise on social media. You’ll gain exposure among people who don’t follow your account, and, as a result, some of those people will become new friends.
That improves your reach. You can do promoted posts on Facebook, promoted tweets on Twitter, sponsored updates on LinkedIn, promoted Pins on Pinterest, paid discovery on StumbleUpon and promoted links on Reddit, for starters.
Also, do everything you can to target people who are in your market, as opposed to just advertising to the masses. Fortunately, social media sites allow you to select the type of people who see your ad, so that you can be sure you’re reaching the right audience.
Yes, you should use email to distribute your content. Email distribution is still widely recognized by many digital marketers as one of the best ways to reach people.
Of course, you’ll have to start this effort by actually building your email list. There are several ways to go about that, but the most popular seems to be with the use of a popup that appears to people who access your content and offers something for free in exchange for an email address.
The email address is used to send the person the free offering, so it’s a cleverly disguised effort to get the person’s email address, but it tends to work well.
Since people are accustomed to receiving spam, your email recipients will likely ignore your content promotion effort, unless you give them a compelling reason to view it. You can provide that reason with a compelling subject line.
Keep in mind that you can also kill two birds with one stone here: If the title of your content is compelling, then it’s likely that the subject of your email can simply be the title of the content, and it will give you a decent open rate.
There are a lot of ways to build email lists — you can learn a few more here.
3. Not Writing Long Enough, Interesting Enough Posts
Here’s a bit of knowledge about content marketing that will soon become old news: Long-form content is a sure-fire winner (as long as it is all interesting content).
What is long-form content? Opinions vary about the answer to that question. As a rule of thumb, if you’re writing less than 1,200 words, then you’re producing a short news piece. It’s not long-form content.
If you’re writing long-form content, you’re cranking out a minimum of 1,500 words. You’re better off breaking the 2,000-word barrier.
Why? There are several reasons. Perhaps the most important is that long-form content tends to rank exceptionally well. In 2012, serpIQ conducted a study showing that the average content length of the top 10 results for more than 20,000 keywords was in excess of 2,000 words.
The idea that long-form content ranks well is also supported by Pandu Nayak, a Google engineer who created the Panda algorithm update. He said the following in a blog post:
Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.
You’re also going to improve your chances of getting backlinks with long-form content. A study conducted by Moz showed that there’s a direct correlation between the length of your content and the number of backlinks that you receive.
Finally, there’s the Highrise Marketing study. Split-testing on that company’s home page showed that long-form content generated a conversation rate 37 percent better than its shorter-form cousin.
The bottom line: Take the time to craft content that thoroughly evaluates a subject relevant to your niche. You’ll find that it ranks better and is shared more, and you generate more conversions as a result of it.
4. Not Taking The Time To Build Communities
If you want to generate success online, you’re going to need to use your brand to build a loyal following. That is, simply put, how brands excel in cyberspace.
Use Your Sidebar
One of the best ways to engage with people who are visiting your blog is with the use of a sidebar that offers chances for further engagement.
At a minimum, your sidebar should offer a compelling email capture that gives people a reason to want to provide you with their email address. I’ve mentioned above that one of the best ways to gain an email address is to offer something free that gets delivered via email. You can make that kind of an offer in your sidebar, as well as with a popup.
Also, add icons to your sidebar that link to your various social media channels. People who visit your site and like what they see will likely want to engage with you on social media to keep up with your updates. Offering those social media icons to them makes it easy for them to like or follow your brand.
Another great way to reduce your bounce rate is to link to the most popular posts on your website. That way, visitors will see content that’s already been determined to be compelling based on popular opinion. They’ll likely click on that content and read it. That’s another way to keep them engaged.
Be advised, though: If you put too much in your sidebar, you’re going to limit your conversion rate. You don’t want so much information and so many icons and images in the sidebar that it becomes a mess to decipher.
Just put the important stuff in there so that it appeals to your visitors. Here are some of the things I like to put into a sidebar.
Another way to build a loyal community of followers is to use retargeting or remarketing. That’s a marketing technique that uses browser technology to digitally “remember” that someone visited your site.
That way, when that same person is browsing around in other parts of cyberspace, he or she will see your ads and possibly make a trip back to your website.
Retargeting is a fantastic marketing tactic because it has so many different uses. You can use it to bring people back who didn’t convert the first time but might convert the second time.
It’s also useful for building brand awareness among those people who’ve expressed enough of an interest in your business to visit your site at least once. It’s also a great way to promote limited-time offers that might result in quick sales.
5. Not Getting Other People Involved
Another fabulous means of promoting your brand online that’s often overlooked is to get other people involved in your work. You can build an online team of evangelists who, on some occasions, actually promote your business on your behalf.
Have A Blog Figurehead
You need to have one or more people as the face of the blog. This works really well for lead generation, because readers will come to respect that person over time and eventually reach out.
But if you simply have someone’s name listed, and users can’t see a bio, then you’re not doing a good job in building credibility. Make sure each post has an author and that people can learn about that author. That will result in better results for linking, shares, returning visitors and leads.
Email People When You Mention Or Link To Them
Sometimes, you might link to an authority figure’s website about a particular subject. That’s great because it builds credibility for your content.
However, you should also email the relevant parties to let them know that you sent some link juice their way. Also, if you’re tweeting out the content, and you have room, be sure to mention them in the tweet by using their “@” Twitter handle.
You should also look for opportunities to guest blog on other people’s websites. Chances are that you’ve met a few people in the business who need some content.
At the same time, you’d like to promote your own brand with some great content that needs exposure. Put the two together, and it’s a match made in heaven.
Your associate gets content, and you get to toot your own horn with a guest post. What’s not to love?
Letting Others Guest Blog On Your Site
Remember, though, that turnabout is fair play. If you’re going to guest blog on other people’s sites, then you should practice some good karma and let other people guest blog on your site.
That’s how networking works, after all: You focus on giving and not just receiving. The effort is mutually beneficial because you’ll get some great content for your website, and your guest blogger will get a chance to promote a brand.
6. Giving Up Too Soon
Finally, I see corporate bloggers make the mistake of throwing in the towel way too soon. Cultivating an online brand is like growing a garden: It takes time for it to work. Many of the top blogs online took five to 10 years to get there.
Some people get frustrated too early with a lack of results. The reality is that you really can’t expect to set up a website, throw up an e-commerce payment gateway and watch your cash flow grow exponentially overnight by posting 20 blogs.
That’s not how it works. You’ll have to invest the time necessary to develop your brand and make your presence known. Then, you can expect to grow over time.
Another mistake is to write short posts without paying particular attention to keyword research, the relevance of the subject matter or proper grammar. As a result, visitors get turned off by the content, don’t share it with anybody else, leave the blog and never come back.
Instead, opt for the long-form content I mentioned above. Pick a niche-relevant subject, and explore it thoroughly with a minimum of 1,500 words.
Finally, understand that it can take a full year to generate a loyal following online. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, especially if you are not a known figure when you’re starting the blog.
However, if you go out of your way to promote your content and engage with people on social media, you’ll find that you attract people slowly over time. You’ll also find that those followers will, in turn, attract other followers, and you’ll continue to build on your previous successes.
Wrapping It Up
Building your brand online is a learned skill. As with any other skill you try out for the first time, you’ll find that you can easily make mistakes.
However, you can also learn from the mistakes that I’ve witnessed so that you don’t duplicate the errors of other people. Ideally, you’ve learned some valuable lessons here that you can take to your corporate blogging efforts.
If you blog correctly, I can say with 100 percent confidence it will lead to more business. But you need to do it right.