You’ve been reading a lot about SEO over the years, reading about how to use content to generate bucket loads of traffic, giving you precious new business. But where do you start?
As you move within the online marketing ecosphere you’ve undoubtedly read about how Hubspot attracts innumerable amounts of visitors to their website. Through their blog mind you. Blogs all over the web are talking about how they’ve mastered the game of content. You think to yourself, how can I become a blogging legend myself to generate new business? There is more to do than you might think.
The reality check
I don’t like to rain on people’s parade, but I want to be fair to my readers. There’s no easy way to generate a content machine. I’ve run multiple blogs, also in my personal life. It takes hard work and persistence and even then, it might not always work out. In a crowded market place it’s difficult to find a creative edge that speaks to your readers. That’s why a lot of outliers on the content spectrum exist and generate hype.
Content is an extension of your marketing and should therefore deserve the same care and love as all your paid promotions.
Also take into account. That even when you dial all the right SEO buttons, Google will make sure that you won’t be indexed for months. That’s the harsh reality of blogging for businesses. But we are going for success.
Defining your blog goals
A good blog is nothing without a proper goal definition. The blog is mostly pitched within the company as an economically viable model to grow the business. But, without proper steering it will just remain that, a section on your website. We’ll have a closer look later on in how to structure your blog and turn it into a traffic driver. First we need to define the scope of what our blog has to do for your business. We’re going to define a goal for the blog.
We can have fixed goals such as:
- Generate x amount of pageviews
- Generate x amount of organic new users
- Generate x amount of revenue
- Generate x amount of leads for sales
- Generate x amount of sign-ups for our product
We can also choose to have more abstract goals such as:
- Create authority through specialized content
The latter goal is difficult to measure through ‘traditional’ means such as web analytics. Metrics could be the amount of requests for one of the C-level members to speak at events, but this is very difficult to achieve without your C-level actively participating in your content. You will highly likely be using the knowledge of industry veterans within your company to create authority to generate leads. Therefore your content will overlap multiple goals at once through this method. I’d recommend sticking to fixed goals.
Generating reach for your business can be done organically, but to kickstart your blog and maintain a steady flow of traffic within a reasonable amount of time, some budget needs to be allocated to generating some hype for your content. You can go as far and wide as you want with your budget. It can start small by sprinkling some budget throughout your content calendar (which we will discuss later in this post). It’s utopian to think that all your content will be discovered organically. This has become especially true for social media platforms.
Let’s say you are planning 1 post per week, which equals 52 posts per year, you can dedicate a small budget of $10 dollars per post for Facebook promotion. This may look meager to some well seasoned marketers, a grand total of $520 for promotional activities, but it will help you at least generate some impressions for the content you’ve been working so hard for. Nothing is a bigger bummer than having no clicks to content you’ve been working so hard for.
You might also want to co-create content with influencers, which can also be as expensive as you want to make it. Or promote your whitepaper on industry websites to generate leads for your sales team. Content is an extension of your marketing and should therefore deserve the same care and love as all your paid promotions.
Knowing your audience
As with everything that involves marketing, you need to know your audience. I sprinkled it left and right on this blog. It might have become a little tedious, but for good reason. Knowing how your audience will give you direction in your content and not write stuff that nobody cares about or is attracting the wrong audience all together. If you’ve got a webshop for childrens’ clothing, attracting customers who have no children would be a total waste of effort.
Creating a persona, or target audience, can be an extensive project. Knowing full well, you may not have the means or budget to create such a persona, I recommend you go down with the basics to get a sense of who you will be writing for.
A lot of these audience related characteristics can be found in Google Analytics. If you’ve generated some traffic this data will be sufficient to build an abstract view of your reader. Note that this might not be the audience that you want to target, which means you have to look outside your own website to determine what interests the specific target audience you want to attract to your website. If you want to know how to learn more about your audience and create a persona, you can read my other post about how to use Google Analytics to create a persona.
Which will help us determine which channels to target to promote our content.
Can help us generate local content and specify the language we need to use.
Will help us further funnel our content to the right channels.
Telling us which reading level is applicable to our content. Readability for your target audience is key for good SEO. You can read more about readability in another post, where I break down the various methods to check for readability of your content.
Knowing the jobs of our readers will help us create taylored content. Imagine being a law firm that has a target audience of wealthy, highly educated, entrepreneurs and how they can protect their business. We can write highly specific content for this audience. The other way around is having a target audience of female students who work mostly part time who are interested in fashion.
Determining which topics your readers are interested in will give us fuel for blogs to come. Getting to know this can be a tricky endeavour for beginning marketers and entrepreneurs and can be approached through several methods:
Keyword research will help you see which topics are relevant within your market. You can use it through Google Trends, Google Ads or Answer the public. We will go into further detail in how to conduct keyword research later. I like Answer the public a lot for businesses. Answer the public tracks the questions people use for search queries. It gives you very clear insights into the issues, interests or questions people are having around your topic. And as Google is focussed on problem solving, this gives the competitive edge we need to make our content as relevant as possible. I’ve come up with several blog ideas you can read here through this tool. The tool does not give you search volumes, but sometimes it is good to build a repository of content first. It’s easy to be blinded by volumes and call it quits before even starting.
Mini surveys through tools such as Hotjar, to ask feedback on what our customers like to read. A small pop-up window appears at the edge of the browser where one question can be asked.
Assuming you already have a small database of newsletter subscribers you can send out a questionnaire to learn not only the above characteristics, but also which topics they are interested in. You can segment your users based on their preferences if you wish to do so.
To make your blog content work for you, it’s essential you research which keywords will generate traffic to your website. Targeting the right keywords will also ensure you attract users to your website who are interested in your products and services.
There are a lot of ways to conduct keyword research, but I prefer using the keyword pyramid, which simplified boils down to creating a bottom layer of low volume keywords, a center of mid volume keywords and a top (the figurative top of the pyramid) with high volume, high competitions keywords. You can get search volumes through the Google Ads Keyword Planner tool.
If you want to get a more detailed explanation of the keyword theory, I’d recommend you read another I’ve written about this topic. I explain how to find new keyword opportunities, how to get search volume estimates and how to spread the keywords across your website for maximum impact and durable growth. Because keyword research is a standalone blog.
Creating a content calendar
Content will be the bread and butter for your website. You can use the following table to plan out your content, and stick to it. I’ve created an example for a sneaker ecommerce store further down below, but you are free to add your own requirements such as: URL, UTM-code, meta description, img alt tag, budget when they are applicable.
It’s important that you combine any promotional material such as social media posts and paid promotions in the calendar as well, because a post doesn’t stop at just releasing a blogpost. You want your readers to discover the content on the platforms they like most.
|Content type||Target Keyword(s)||Topic||H1||Word Count||Release date|
|Blog||Nike sneakers||History||The history of the Nike sneaker||2000||Week 1|
|Blog||Adidas sneakers||History||The history of the Adidas Sneaker||2000||Week 3|
|Blog||Sneaker season||Lookbook||Combining sneakers with your winter outfit||1000||Week 5|
|Social media post||Sneaker season||Lookbook||Combining sneakers with your winter outfit||300||Week 5|
|Social media post||Sneaker season||Influencer marketing||Combining sneakers with a winter outfit||300||Week 5|
Creating a content backlog
We’ve been looking at how to create an audience, conduct keyword research and create a content calendar, but nothing kills a blog more than lack of time. Not all companies can afford a dedicated content marketer who creates all kinds of different content, ranging from blogs, whitepapers, product pages etc. Or your supervisor simply won’t acknowledge the value of content since there is no ‘ROI’. You know who you are.
The best method to make sure you have content year round and make sure your site stays fresh, is to write beforehand, according to your content calendar. I’d advise writing at least 12 blogs, one for every month of the year. Aim to make your blogs at least 1000 to 1500 words, this will prevent it from being a glorified news article and give value to your readers.
Combined with your social media posts which are nicely spread out across your calendar, will create a nice flow of traffic to your website. It will take some time in the beginning, but you will reap the rewards in the end. I understand there is seasonal work, especially in sneakers and other fashion products. Heck, how about sports? This means you will have to go back to the drawing table with your management, if you are working within an organization with a marketing department, to either make content a full priority and as such a valuable asset to the company. Without dedicated effort the blog will have no chance of becoming a success.
You’ve undoubtedly come across other company blogs which have for some reason a lot of content in the beginning and dwindle away or don’t have content for months on end. This means someone within the company decided content ‘had no ROI’. Or the intern left. Content is the cornerstone of your business, in any shape of form.
An essential step to remain on the radar of your target audience, is the newsletter through which you will send out regular updates of new content on your blog. Gathering newsletter subscribers is no easy matter. You need the right tools, the right content to persuade visitors of your blog to sign-up for your newsletter. And with so many different websites competing for attention, this exercise becomes more difficult by the day. In a seperate blog I’ve written about how to get subscribers for your newsletter.
In brief a successful newsletter boils down to:
- An easy to use CMS and Email client with seamless integration
- Creating as many small conversion points across your website such as your contact form, you sign-up form or pop-up
- Segmenting users on their interests
Having these elements in place will help you make giant leaps in the amount of subscribers. I know, 100% growth is easier when you go from 1 to 2 daily newsletter subscribers. Still, its growth!
The quick and dirty SEO checklist
I also want to point out that just writing content for the right keywords and the right audience is half the battle. Without proper SEO (Search Engine Optimization) we will be swimming against the current. I want to give you some pointers to make sure your blog is technically ready for content:
- Your website loads under 3 seconds
- Your website is connected to the Google Search Console
- Your website is connected to the Bing Webmaster tool
- Your website has a Google Analytics instance
- Every page has a title, H1 and H2 tag, a meta description
- Your images have alt tags
- Your images are under 500kb
This is far from an extensive list, but through the simple above checklist you make sure your website is properly indexed and all relevant information for the search engine and the visitor is in place.
Going beyond the blog
I touched this topic a little bit in this post, that content goes beyond just making blogs. You can create whitepapers, beautifully curated Instagram feeds, podcasts (in audio and/or video format), livestreams on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. TikTok or Snapchat videos. The possibilities are endless and each one can generate different results for your business. It’s important you open your mind to the different content types out there or else you’ll think that writing blogs, which might not be your thing at all, are the only options you have.
A good business blog requires time, effort and money. Your blog cannot successfully launch without budget allocation to get your content in front of your audience. To effectively find your audience online you need to know who they are and where they move online.
One of the biggest pitfalls of a business blog is not doing your homework, namely knowing which keywords you want to target and through which type of blog content. You can enrich your content with whitepapers, photography or other interactive content to engage with your audience on a higher level. Make sure you prepare enough posts in your backlog so you can keep releasing new content and keep sending signals to Google you’re working on your website on a regular basis.