Content is a marketing buzzword these days with good reason. The success of big brands in engaging customers through a compelling digital marketing plan shows that it has slowly moved from being a marketing tool to being a necessity. When even the usually thrifty Ryanair is getting in on the act with its own blog, you get the message: it’s not an expenditure a business can do without.
So, where to start? The good news is that there are lots of excellent tools available for individuals and businesses starting out. This is now a well-trodden path, and many mistakes have already been made by companies, which means you can sidestep them. In this article, we’ll talk through the process step by step, showing which tools can be used and how they can help you and your business write and manage your blog posts.
Content is nothing without consistency. Even if your blog has excellent, well-written and informative content, if it’s not regularly updated, it’s going nowhere. In fact, if it’s not regularly updated, it will hinder your business rather than help it. There’s nothing worse for a customer than clicking on a business blog only to see that it was last updated six months ago. Even larger companies who claim to maintain a blog can fall into that trap. Frankly, it looks as if the business owners just lost interest.
Dormant blogs are the tumbleweed of the internet. What’s the best way to avoid them? The tools below will help. But it’s also useful to map out your content before beginning. Ask yourself how often you want to post. If it’s every two days, consider, ‘do I have enough compelling content to post every two days?’ If not, space out the content. Above all, be patient. It’s not as if your blog is going to generate huge traffic overnight. It’s a slow burner. But it is worth it.
With that advice out of the way, let’s look at those tools.
Google has more than 151 products and services, many of which are helpful, free and under-used. Google Alerts is one such product. It gives you regular updates – you choose the frequency – on news featuring keywords of your choice. Want to know what’s happening in widgets? Google Alerts will send the highlights of widget news straight to your inbox. You can then use those articles to generate your own topics. If you’re looking at a topic that is quite general, let’s say ‘beauty’, the news sent to your mail can be overwhelming. Avoid this by using more specific terms, such as ‘beauty therapy’ or ‘makeup tips’.
Remember – generally, the point of blogging at all is to attract readers. Armed with your topic from Google Alerts, use the URL of those articles to check what’s trending in the same area on social media: what’s being shared or re-tweeted. Pay attention not just to the angle of the articles but also their length, and the time they were posted. You won’t get big hits on an English-language article that’s posted when everyone in the English-speaking world is in bed, for example.
Coming up with a topic is one thing, writing it is another. You can falter at the first post if you find it hard to come up with good titles. While we’re not suggesting you should worry too much about this, Portent Title Maker can help with the process of finding sharp blog post titles if you’re suffering from a bout of writer’s block.
You’ve probably come across SEO (search engine optimisation) and you know that it means something about having the ‘right’ words in your article. Google Keyword Planner is the way to find out what those words are. It provides a breakdown of which words are attracting the most searches in a given period of time. Remember, it has to be relevant. ‘Beyoncé’ may be great to generate hits but if your article is about widgets, it’s not going to drive traffic to your site in the long term.
Once you begin writing blog posts, you might find that the process is all a bit, well, ponderous. You’ll develop a fondness for looking out the window, re-arranging your desk, making a second coffee… anything but getting the writing down, which is the whole point of the exercise. As naive as this sounds, EggTimer allows you – or forces you, rather – to write the article as efficiently as possible. At first, you won’t make it. But by aiming to complete it the second or third time, you’re gaining discipline. And discipline will be one of the keys to being consistent over time with your blog.
Toggl is a really nice tool that provides a dashboard showing how you’re using your time. For example, if it shows that you’re spending a lot of time researching, maybe you should be outsourcing your research to sites such as Upwork.com or Freelancer.com. Let’s be honest here – it’s likely to show that you’re spending about 30% of your time on Facebook so turn off Facebook when you’re writing. It’s a good way to keep in touch with friends but it’s the enemy of productivity.
There are many different standards of blogging. You don’t need a degree in English to get going. The simplest of writing can find an audience. The only no-no is bad punctuation and spelling. It’s an immediate turn-off. Spellcheckers often won’t pick up on the worst offences and even the best writers make mistakes. So aside from checking your work, do yourself a favour and copy it into Grammarly, which will suggest improvements to spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Even the best articles require images to break up the text. Articles with images also draw more search results than those without, so it’s a no-brainer. Photopin offers users a variety of royalty-free images, with the usual premium options for those who want a larger selection to choose from. Google Image search also offers a ‘royalty free’ filter on their images. As experienced bloggers will tell you, finding good images can take as long as writing a blog article itself. So, a good tip is to store good images as soon as you come across them – don’t even wait for an article to be written. That way, you can dip in and out of your image bank whenever you need to.
Under-rated is not an expression you’ll often hear associated with Twitter, but we think it is – at least by small businesses. While Twitter’s cons often outweigh its pros, it’s essential for bloggers to draw in readers to their blog. As soon as you’re happy with what you’ve written and it’s online, mention it in a Tweet with a hashtag. For example, if your article is about widgets, include a link to the article in your tweet, a brief comment and #widget. The difference this simple action makes over time is extraordinary.
Twitter is just one way to distribute your blog posts, of course. The more time you spend distributing, the more hits you’re likely to get. Between writing the posts and trying to distribute them through social media channels, the process can become quite time consuming. Buffer is a great way to manage your outreach efficiently. It allows you to set up a schedule to distribute your blog posts in social media. Watch the visits to your site roll in – and begin the process all over again.
The reason there are so many blogs online is because they’re free to write and have the potential to bring a lot of traffic to a website. By using the tools discussed here, you maximise your blog’s success, and ensure it continues long into the future.
Take the time to interact online as well. It’s fun and shouldn’t take too long. Use your business name when talking to people on other blogs and social networks, and use a link to your blog in your signature. That way, slowly but surely, you’ll get your blog out there. Remember, you’re in it for the long haul. Most people stop along the way because it doesn’t bring them instant riches. But stick with it. Those who persist will find it’s worth it.