Well here we are, already at part 4 of our business blogging series. We've looked at some good reasons why you should start a blog and looked in more detail at the how to start a business blog. In the most recent article we looked at some of the most popular blogging platforms to physically create and publish your blog with.
This time, we're looking at how you go about promoting your content and how to grow your blog audience using some tried and tested strategies and inbound marketing at the heart of your blog promotion efforts.
Build it and they will come
You may recognise this title as the famous line from Kevin Costner's film, Field of Dreams. As lovely an idea as it is, simply publishing something into the global content landscape of the Internet will not guarantee any sort of visitor.
Sure, some people get quite lucky, some get there with sheer belligerence and spreading their net as wide as possible, but, for most, it can he hugely deflating to spend so much time crafting something you're really proud of and release it onto the world, only to find there very little interest in it right away.
Fea not though, you've done the really difficult bits of building a blog in the earlier steps in this series (deciding to start a blog, starting the process of planning and creating your content, and choosing a blogging platform), but all this work has to be supported with a strong post-publication promotional effort through various channels.
It might sound a little daunting, but we're here to help with some great ways to shout out your shiny new content. Let's explore some great ways to promote your blog and grow your blog audience...
1. Leverage social media
If we've mentioned social media once, we've mentioned it a million times, but there are still many businesses who have a sceptical view of social media, or struggle to realise the potential it has because of a lack of time, or by being overwhelmed with options as to what platform to choose, or how and what to post.
Here's a quick intro to the most popular social media platforms and how you can use them to promote your blog:
Twitter is largely about real time conversations; what's happening now. You can get involved in various twitter hours that create great online networking opportunities and are an ideal place to talk about your blog. We have a great article on growing your Twitter network the right way that will help you gain more followers.
Primarily aimed at B2C businesses because of the personal nature making up Facebook's members, if you're writing a blog that will interest the general public, or non-business consumers, then using Facebook to talk about your articles is a good idea. It also features a very cost-effective advertising platform to extend your reach.
Designed to digitise the idea of an old pin-board, Pinterest has a very active user base across a range of business areas. If you have a business content format that lends itself to publishing more design-led, visual articles (how-tos, infographics, inspirational ideas) then Pinterest is the ideal avenue to promote your work.
Sometimes referred to as the Facebook of business, LinkedIn is the best place to publish articles and content aimed squarely at the B2B space. LinkedIn Groups are fantastic arenas in which to share your content to like-minded businesses, or forge relationships with individuals and businesses who match your buyer personas.
Whilst not as popular as others, there are many great reasons for your business to be involved with Instagram. Although, like Pinterest, Instragram works best for more visually-led content, there are ways to make use of an interesting design or visual piece to direct traffic to your blog.
Although surprisingly popular, Google+ is widely shunned by most business owners because it's not as popular as other social media channels, especially from a consumer point of view. However there is real benefit to being active on the platform, such as additional social signals (good for SEO), and adding publisher tags to your website and articles (again helping with SEO efforts).
Whatever social platform you decide to use, it'll definitely work best for you to create and stick to a social sharing schedule (try saying that fast three times!).
Creating a social media sharing schedule
Whilst it's a good idea to post something different every time you take to social media, it's certainly important to make the most out of your existing content and squeeze every drop from it by posting links to the same content multiple times.
We do this at CreatedRed Media with a social sharing schedule, which you can see an example of in this section.
Different platforms lend themselves to different sharing frequencies: Twitter, for example, works well when posting the same content quite frequently, whereas LinkedIn is better approached by re-sharing content further apart.
You can see from our schedule that we share content on Twitter very intensely in the first month and then it drops back a little; we post to Facebook on publish, then a month later, two months later, and finally six months after that.
Ideally, you don't want to share the same thing twice. Of course we want to share our great content over and over again, but what I mean here is that each time you share the same piece blog content or an article, use different social media post content to share it.
A good way to do this is to add a different take on the content being shared in each post, add some intrigue, ask a question, cite a fact, and so on. Here's an example of how we might share this very article on Twitter:
- On publish, simple title - "How to promote your business blog:"
- Next day, ask a question - "Did you know businesses that blog see 55% higher traffic? Read how here:"
- Next month, add some intrigue - "Want to know how to grow your blog audience using social media? Find out here:"
2. Search engine optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is largely considered a dark art by almost everyone. The main reason for this is that no one really, truly knows what's going on with the search engines' factors for why one page is displayed above another.
What we can rely on, however, is some tried and tested evidence that shows that there are a lot of small indicators that help you out-rank your competition. Some content led like having your keywords appearing naturally and regularly, and some technical, like making your pages nice and fast to load.
In reality, the easiest thing as a budding business blogging creator is to keep your audience in mind at all times; after all, that's who you're producing content for right? Not the search engines! People want relevant, helpful content that's delivered in the language they expect and a winning, popular format (e.g. 'top 10 tips' or 'how to do XYZ guide'),
Since you've already done your keyword research in a previous step, you know what you want to write about and that you'll have a good chance of ranking for it naturally.
Here are some key SEO factors you can make sure are tip top in your content to have the best chance to rank highly in search results:
- Keywords - choose one or two per article and make sure they appear in titles, meta information, and in the content, but try to use them naturally rather then stuffing them in wherever you can. Be careful not to over use them too as this can appear 'spammy';
- Images - images are great for breaking up content, good for visual information, and great for sharing on social media. Put relevant information in your alt tags to help describe what your images are about;
- Calls to action - adding strong calls to action allow you to promote valuable pieces of larger content, or drive visitors to perform an action, such as calling to arrange an appointment or look at your products;
- Links to internal and external sources - including links to other internal pages and content is good for search engines and visitors as they allow everyone to discover more pages and other content on your website / blog..
Keeping your content well optimised, simple, straightforward, and relevant your natural (organic) visits will gradually climb over time as your content ranks higher and higher up the search engine results.
3. Influencer outreach
Outreaching is a popular promotional technique amongst bloggers, social media managers and news teams, and is a popular SEO technique for building those all important links to your website or blog. It's a simple process that can yield huge results to both your blog's reach, traffic numbers, and search engine rankings.
To start, think about what space your blog occupies: is it finance, business support, creative writing, IT, marketing, etc.? Once you establish this, it's time to do some research on other blogs and online publications in the same or related fields as yours.
Make a list of these other blogs and websites and do your homework:
- What sort of visitors does the site attract?
- Who owns the site, or who looks after the content?
- Does the website have a lot of traffic each month?
- Is the site a respected and trustworthy source of information?
There are a lot of tools out there to help you answer some of these questions such as HubSpots Marketing Grader (which can peek at competitors websites) and some SEO report tools like Woorank, which allow you to generate a traffic and ranking report on any website you like.
Armed with a decent list - don't forget you can keep adding to this as part of your blogging routine - you can now start to contact the right people (site owners and content managers) to talk to them about the possibility of featuring some of your content or linking to your blog to both your benefits.
By featuring your blog on popular sites, you'll enjoy two very important advantages:
- A boost in traffic as a portion of the partner website's visitors trickle through to yours;
- A boost in search rankings, especially if your partner's website has a high domain authority or is a very popular site.
Of course, there are some great outreach tools out there to help you do more in less time. One we'd definitely recommend you take a look at is Ninja Outreach, which offers a slick dashboard and makes the whole process of outreaching much smoother, automating a lot of the laborious work for you.
Traditional PR sources
Along the lines of outreaching to blogs and other websites, don't discount the more traditional promotional methods, such as PR pieces and newspaper stories. By contacting relevant publications and producing some press releases promoting your content and business, you can generate offline interest that will transfer to your online activities as people investigate what you have to say.
Guest blogging / article spots
This is closely linked to outreaching efforts, but with outreaching mainly focussing on creating reciprocal links between you and your potential partner's website / blog, by offering to guest blog for another website owner, you'll be more likely to succeed in having them partner with you.
Now you might be thinking that you're going to have to write even more content to be able to give to others as a guest post, but in reality you can just take one or two pieces away from your own content schedule, re-purpose an existing article to give it a new lease of life, or simply write a shorter - but still valuable - piece.
By offering a piece of great content as part of your outreaching efforts you'll be more likely to win over your outreaching prospects, but your new audience will also get to see, first hand, what you're about and will be more interested to click through to your own website and find out more.
4. Paid promotion
When we talk about paid promotion, we generally mean things like Google AdWords, Bing Ads, or Facebook / Twitter advertising platforms (you might be familiar with the 'boost post' available on your Facebook content).
Paid advertising is very very effective because of the huge scope for really fine grain targeting of a particular audience set and it can help you out in the beginning to give your traffic a boost whilst your other promotional activities kick in (things like social media and SEO work).
But beware: paid promotion and digital search advertising is often a source of frustration for business owners because there is a large skill gap in the middle - somewhere in-between paying for your adverts and seeing people click your ads to generate traffic - that can mean strange peaks and troughs in results, the wrong sort of audience being targeted, or just plain poor ROI.
The bit in the middle - the missing bit - is where some technical skill comes in to be able to both interpret the data being delivered by the advertising platform (e.g. who's being targeted, what search terms are they finding you for, etc.), and refine the adverts to hone in on the best results possible.
5. Going old-school
It might seem a strange suggestion to physically talk to people about your blog when everything else is digitally focussed, but why not?!
If you're a member of some networking groups, or simply as part of your day to day business activities you're bound to come across people who might find your blog useful to them. After all, you're providing helpful, interesting stuff on there, so why wouldn't they be interested?
At least some percentage of people you come across will find your blog helpful to their situation and the more people know about your blog, the more they're likely to share it, and the more potential customers you can get in front of. Because it's helpful, rather than salesy, it's an easier thing to promote and talk about with them.
6. Tell your customers in a newsletter
Growing your subscribers is something that's key to keeping healthy traffic on your website and in our next article we'll be looking at tools like HubSpot and LeadIn to make it easy for people to subscribe to your blog if they want to follow you.
For now though, a good place to start is looking to your contacts list. Do you currently have a company newsletter? If so, then add a regular column in there introducing your latest articles and featured posts. If not then why not start a regular monthly blog update email to send to your current customers, contacts, suppliers, or other people in your digital Rolodex?
If people like what you're producing then they'll tell others and so on which means a healthy blog subscriber base that will start to grow of its own accord.
Build it (then shout about it) and they will come
Armed with the knowledge above, you should have a great set of building blocks to use to shout about your remarkable content. Not all promotional channels will work for your business industry, or your content, but it's worth keeping an open mind and exploring some of the different options available to you.
Remember to focus on what works well and spend less time on what's not working for you. By maximising your engagement in the right channels and on the right platforms, you'll be sure to grow your blog audience and are one step closer to becoming a business blogging wizard!
Coming up next time
In the final part of our blogging series, we'll be looking at how to turn all your hard work into profit and how business blogging can impact your bottom line.
Other articles in the series
This is article 4 in a multi-part series of guides on business blogging. You can find the others in the series here:
- Part 1 - 5 reasons you should start a business blog
- Part 2 - How to start a blog in 3 easy steps
- Part 3 - 4 of the best blogging platforms for business
- Part 4 - Promote and grow your blog audience
- Part 5 - Making a profit from your business blog