The blog, or “web log,” has been around since the 1980s in the form of news groups and discussion forums. Today, hosting services and software make it easy for anyone to start a blog. And why shouldn’t they? Blogging offers unique opportunities for marketing, branding, and lead development. And according to Hubspot’s 2017 State of Inbound Report, 53 percent of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.
Content is a key part of the sales cycle. Nearly half (47 percent) of buyers view three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales representative, according to a 2016 report by DemandGen. Even old content keeps developing leads. HubSpot found that 75 percent of their views and 90 percent of their leads came from older posts.
But blogging is more than an occasional article; it’s a commitment to consistently and regularly develop quality content. The Holy Grail is a compounding post – one that performs much better than others, especially over time – which, according to HubSpot, represents 10 percent of all blog posts and generates 38 percent of overall traffic.
Before developing content
Ready to sit down and start writing? First, think strategy, which ideally includes mapping the customer journey, creating customer personas, and distributing content. But for those just starting, here are the basics.
- Target audience: Who do you most want to reach?
- Goal: What should happen as a result?
- Content: Which topics do readers care about?
- Frequency: What schedule can be reasonably maintained?
- Distribution: Where and how will content be published?
- Promotion: How will content be promoted?
A sound, research-based strategy will serve as a blueprint for developing a consistent flow of quality content to support the brand, stay relevant to prospects, and attract your best clients.
Blogging best practices
Much research has been published about the how, what, when, and where of blogging. The following draws on two recent studies: the Annual Survey of Bloggers, by Orbit Media Studios, and Highlights and the State of Blogging 2017 Survey, by ConvertKit.
Length of posts
Blog posts are getting longer, taking more time to write, and being published less frequently than in previous years. Although the average length of a blog post is 1,054 words, the percentage of blog posts with 2,000 or more words has doubled every year, says Orbit. ConvertKit found that most popular length ranged from 500 to 1,000 words.
Several studies suggest a trend toward higher quality, longer-form. Based on current research, 750 to 1,000 words seems commonplace.
Time spent writing
According to Orbit, bloggers are spending more time writing; generally, the more time spent, the better the results.
- The average blog post takes 3.25 hours to write.
- Twice as many bloggers spend six or more hours on an average post.
- About 23 percent of bloggers who spent fewer than six hours, and 33 percent of bloggers who spent more than six hours, reported “strong results.”
According to B2B blogger Frank Strong, a high-quality post takes four to eight hours, which may include preparation, interviews, research, and vetting sources. So give writers the time they need to produce good content.
Use of images
The Orbit study reports that the use of images with blogs is on the rise. About 78 percent of blogs include an image, 51 percent contain more than one image, and approximately 47 percent contain a list. A much smaller percentage include video (15 percent), audio (2.7 percent), and “other” (17.3 percent). Further, bloggers who reported “strong results” generally include more visuals like audio and video.
Frequency of publishing
As shown below, bloggers are publishing less frequently than in previous years. The trend is toward weekly, several times per month, or monthly versus daily or several times per week. Regardless of the numbers, a company’s blog should be guided by its strategy, and the time, talents, and resources available. Just remember, consistency builds familiarity, familiarity builds trust, and trust leads to sales.
Companies that commit to regularly publishing quality content reap the biggest rewards.
- Every new post provides exposure to potential customers.
- Regularly posting new content attracts search engines and leads to higher rankings.
- Every post is an opportunity for others to share it on social media or link it to their sites.
- The more blogs that are posted on the website, the more traffic it will drive.
Benchmark data from Hubspot in 2017 revealed that B2C companies publishing 16-plus blog posts per month receive 4.5 times the traffic as those that upload zero to four posts, as illustrated below. Further, the more often companies posted, the more leads they generated. Companies that published 401+ total blog posts got more than three times more leads than companies publishing up to 100 total blog posts.
Just start somewhere
“Perfection is the mother of procrastination.” This quote by author, blogger, and speaker, Michael Hyatt, explains why some companies never start a blog. But effective blogging is not about being perfect; it’s about being in tune with readers, writing quality content, and consistently publishing and promoting the content. Even if company time and resources will support only a monthly, 500-word blog, it’s a start!
How to Grow Your Blog
- Actively participate in other online communities
Pay special attention to those relating to the industry with similar audiences. Get involved in about three to five well-established LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages, blogs, or forums.
- Write about what you know and love
Passionate about reviving old wood floors or restoring old barn wood? Share experiences, successes, mistakes, and tips to help others. This demonstrates your knowledge and builds trust.
- Answer people’s questions
If a reader asks a question, write a blog post to answer it. Also, answer those questions most often asked in day-to-day exchanges. Build a library of content and search engines will find it.
- Encourage interaction
Moderate an Instagram discussion on hot topics like wood floors versus look-alikes, or staples versus cleats. Host a real-time Q&A session so readers can ask questions and get immediate answers.
- Focus on evergreen content
Evergreen content is just as relevant five years from now as it is today. Consider fundamentals like sustainability, customer service, and differences among wood species.
- Ask for followers and subscribers
Don’t count on readers to seek out your blog; provide an option to subscribe via RSS or email. If they love the content, they’ll want more!
Katrina Olson is a freelance writer and Principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.