Blogging

How to Create Engaging Content

Is a blog post only as good as the number of comments it receives? If you post something on social media and no one likes or comments on it, did the post happen?

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Creating engaging content is one of the top challenges for marketers, according to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark report from the Content Marketing Institute. Sixty percent of B2B marketers stated that producing engaging content was their number one issue. (#2 and #3 were producing effective content and producing content regularly.)

If your blog’s comments are low or people seem to click away quickly, it may be time to give one or all of the following a try:

Be Topical (With Care)

“Newsjacking” is the process of using topical, timely content to get your brand’s message out to the world. There are good instances of newsjacking and some not-so-good ones.  A good instance might be to take a trending story and create an educational and informative blog post from it.  Similarly, you can write a piece that references a popular TV show or that connects to something that’s happening in the news, as long as it’s relevant to your business and positive.

On the other hand, using a recent tragedy or crisis to try to promote your brand is in bad form, even if your product might be relevant to readers’ lives at the moment.

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Listicles, or articles that are simply a list of things, tend to get a bad rap. But research shows that people actually do love listicles, and are more likely to share and comment on them than other content forms (one study by  Lumanu showed that listicles received 10 percent more social engagement per article.)

Why are they popular? It turns out that the human brain is wired to respond positively to lists. When a reader sees a list on your blog or social platform, he or she knows a few things right away – like what will be in the article, about how long it will be (if it’s a numbered list), and whether the article will be interesting to him or her. Ranked lists are particularly engaging for people, since they sort the information in a clear way.

Give Something Away

People are more likely to share their thoughts and opinions with you if you promise them something in return. You have a few options when it comes to running a giveaway. You can offer a small freebie to everyone who comments on a blog post or who shares a post (such as a free e-book).

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Another option is to have a contest for a bigger prize, such as a month’s worth of your product or services for free. Enter the names and emails of everyone who shares or comments on your post by a certain date into a drawing, then pick a winner at random.

If you mainly create social content or want people to engage with a special hashtag, create a social media giveaway.  Encourage people to post on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest (choose the network that is most relevant to your business), using the hashtag and mentioning your company. Give the person who creates the most likes or shares a prize. Your brand can end up with a lot of engaging content, courtesy of current or potential customers.

The bottom line:  Engaging content connects to people in some way, whether it’s giving them a reward, promising them useful information or helping them learn from a recent news story or pop culture phenomenon. If you’re not seeing results from your content, experimenting with a different form might be all you need to do.

 

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4 Reasons Why No One is Reading Your Content

The world is full of content — according to data from Uberflip, more than 27 million pieces of content are shared daily. With so much out there, naturally people are only going to read the content that stands out from the rest and that makes an impression.

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If no one is reading the blog posts, white papers, or other content your team is creating, it is easy to blame it on the sheer volume of words available these days. But, the issue could go deeper than that. Your content might be getting lost in the shuffle, or it could be suffering from a number of other issues that make it easy for people to ignore.

It Doesn’t Have the Right Focus

When people go online to find information, they are often looking for a solution to a problem. Blog posts and white papers that get the most traction with an audience tend to be very useful or tend to help people or companies solve a problem.

Content that’s not focused on usefulness isn’t going to attract readers. One way to solve an issue of focus is to reconsider who you are creating content for. Your current customer base or potential customer base should always be who you are directing your content towards. When you are developing ideas for blog posts and other materials, think of issues your audience might have, then produce content that helps them solve those issues.

It Doesn’t Sound Authoritative

Content that appeals to people is authoritative and unique. It’s fairly common to see companies producing blog posts or articles in an attempt to cash in on a current trend. If the subject of the article isn’t really in the company’s wheelhouse, the author of it ends up sounding uninformed or inexperienced. That not only turns off readers, it can also turn off also potential customers.

It’s fine to write something about an issue or news story that is trending at the moment. But, the important thing to do is to put your own slant on it. Let readers see your business’ unique perspective on a problem or how you company can solve a trending issue in a way that no one else can.

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Your content might also be suffering because it’s just not well written. Poorly written content can make you sound less authoritative, as it’s difficult to make a strong argument when there are a lot of grammatical errors or overly flowery language. Not everyone is a gifted communicator, or has an eye or ear for good content. If you’re not sure if the posts and articles your company is putting out are any good, it’s worth it to hire someone to handle making sure your content team has what it takes to put together expertly written, engaging content.

It’s Not Visually Appealing

In some cases, the actual meat of your company’s content is perfectly fine. You’ve been writing knowledgeable, informative posts and papers. But, the way the content is presented to readers is the issue.

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More people use their mobile device over a desktop or laptop when reading digital content. The 2015 Internet Trends report from KPCB shows that more than half of the time people spend online, about 2.8 hours a day, is using a mobile device. (note: it’s slide 14 on the report)

If your company’s content isn’t easy to read on a smaller screen or if you’re using a web design that is not responsive and doesn’t adjust based on the size of the screen, you could be turning away readers.

It’s Not Reaching People

One last reason why people might  not read your content: they never get a chance to see it. Make it as easy as possible for people to find and read what you’ve written. Sharing your content on social media is one way to do that.

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Making your content easy to share is another way. For example, put share buttons that link to the more popular social media sites next to every post on your blog. That way, if someone stumbles upon your post from a search engine, and likes what he or she sees, it’s easy to share the article or post with his or her followers.

You can also send your content directly to the people you think would benefit from it the most. An email newsletter lets you connect with current or potential customers, and puts your content directly in their inbox. People can always click “delete,” but if you’re reaching out directly to them, it’s more likely they’ll take the time to at least look at what you have to say.

 

5 ways to keep content current

Although staying up-to-date with your company’s content and website can seem like just one more thing you have to worry about in the age of digital media, it’s increasingly important. If you’ve ever visited a website that looked as if it was last updated in 2005 and wondered if the company was still in business, you’ve seen first hand what can happen if you don’t keep content fresh.

Your customers not only want to know what it going on with your company, they also want proof that your business is a leader and influencer in its field. Having a website and social media profiles that reflect that will convince customers that your company is the one to work with. Here are a few relatively simple ways to keep your content up-to-the-minute.

Create an Editorial Calendar

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 It’s difficult to stick to a schedule for posting on your blogs or for posting on social media if you don’t have a clear outline of what to post and when. When it comes to your blog, you don’t have to have a new post up daily (unless you’re very prolific or have a large team of blog writers), but you should aim to get a post on a consistent basis, such as every Monday at 8 am or every other Wednesday at noon.

Putting together an editorial calendar helps you come up with fresh and relevant topics for your blog, too. For example, if you’re planning the content schedule for early summer and you work with a company that provides services to educators, you can come up with post topics that are relevant to things a teacher might need to do over the summer, such as put together next year’s syllabus.

Get Busy on Social Media

Just as you want to create and stick to a consistent schedule with your company’s blog, you want to create and stick to a schedule for social media posting. There is a sweet spot when it comes to how much to post. If you don’t post that much, customers will forget you exist. If you post too much, there’s the chance they will get annoyed and block or unfollow you.

Buffer, a social media scheduling service, took a close look at user engagement on a variety of social media networks to determine when people’s interest dropped off. It found that after two posts a day on Facebook, people were less likely to comment or “like” a post. In the case of Pinterest, brands who posted five times a day or more had the most success. People seem less excited about frequent posts on LinkedIn, and Buffer recommended just a single post each weekday on that site.

Update Your About Page (and the Rest of Your Site)

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Your company has evolved over time. Your website and social media profiles should reflect that change. Take a look at your business’ About page, as it might be due for an update.

Add any new information to the About section, such as the name of any new employees, a new location if you’ve moved, or a new division if you’ve recently expanded. It might be that the information on the About page is accurate, but the page itself isn’t engaging.

If someone wrote the page in a hurry when you put the website up initially, it might not be the best reflection of who your company is or how it serves customers. Take some time to edit the page and make it an accurate introduction to your business.

You should keep the rest of your website current, too. If you have white papers or case studies on your site, take a look at them every year or so and replace them with updated versions. You don’t want potential customers reading outdated white papers to get information or looking at case studies that don’t reflect your business’ capabilities in the here and now.

Revisit Old Blog Posts

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Just as you revise and update static website pages and content, it’s worth it to revise old, but still relevant, blog posts from time to time. You might not need to edit the content of the posts so much as you need to adjust them to make them more shareable on social media or to boost their SEO. If you’d like to start using Pinterest, for example, you might go back to old posts and add eye catching images to them, so that pinners want to click on your post.

Some posts might just need a bit of clean up. They might contain broken links or you might have missed some spelling or grammatical errors the first time around. You might have written more on the topic since your first post and wish to include the link to your follow-up in the original.

Try New Formats

Another way to freshen up your content is to switch up the format. If you’re not getting much traction with 1,000-word blog posts, perhaps a video will appeal to your visitors more. If you need to share a lot of facts and figures, it might be worth it to put together an infographic.

Creating content in a variety of formats can also increase your social media reach. People look for images on Pinterest, for example, but tend to want something in-depth on LinkedIn. While you shouldn’t try to please all of the people, having plenty of options will help increase your company’s reach.

When it comes to communicating with your clients, you don’t want to fall off the grid. Keeping your website up-to-date, boosting or maintaining your social presence, and keeping your blog current will all help you keep your content fresh.

 

How to Use Thought Leadership as Part of Your PR Strategy

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Who are people going to trust? The company that looks as though it just started up yesterday and  doesn’t really understand its industry yet or the company that has an established track record, a team that really knows its stuff, with the ability to answer questions and provide useful information to customers? It’s most likely the latter, as businesses who work with other businesses want some reassurance that the company they work with knows what it’s doing.

Thought leadership is one way for a company to demonstrate knowledge and experience to potential customers. In recent years, it’s become ever more important, not just as a way to establish authority, but as a way to market and promote a company above its competitors.

Forbes.com contributor John Hall named thought leadership as one of seven PR trends to watch in 2016. If you are ready to work it into your PR strategy, there are several options for doing so.

Understanding Thought Leadership

Thought leadership establishes a company, or in some cases, an individual, as an expert in a particular industry or field. A thought leader not only knows the ins and outs of a field or industry, he or she is also willing to share that information with others, so that they can better understand the industry or so that they can use the information to meet their own needs.

Thought leadership allows a business to build a level of trust with it clients. For example, if a company that was long established as a thought leader in content marketing were to declare that 1,000-word blog posts were no longer effective, and that video blog posts were the next big thing – and backed that claim with appropriate research — people would likely take the company’s word for it and adjust their content marketing plans accordingly.

Tools for a Thought Leadership Campaign

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One of the most “tried and true” components of a thought leadership PR strategy is the white paper, an unbiased report that approaches an issue in a particular industry and that offers options for solving that issue. Since it doesn’t actually market or promote a specific company or product, but instead provides current or potential customers with information they may find valuable, it is a useful way to establish authority.

The digital era has created even more tools for companies to use to establish thought leadership. One example is a blog, usually hosted on a company’s website, which can be viewed as a shorter or more informal version of a white paper. The goal of a blog post should be to help solve a common problem or to provide relevant information on a topic.

Social media is an easy way for companies to come across as an expert in a particular field. A representative from your company can host a Twitter chat or participate in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. You can also use the blogging feature on LinkedIn to showcase your expertise and help people find a solution to their problem. Other modern thought leadership tools can include podcasts and informative videos.

Leveraging Thought Leadership

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Creating the materials of thought leadership is just the first step to using it as part of a PR strategy. It’s also important to leverage those materials and tools to catch the eye of the media and to get a company’s message out there.

One way to merchandise the content of a white paper or blog is to issue a press release directing people’s attention to either. The press release can stress that the paper or blog is available as a research tool to journalists and can point out that representatives are available for interviews or to provide expert opinions on the topic for general news or trade publication stories.

As part of a content marketing strategy, thought leadership can pave the way for future public appearances by a company representative. The Content Marketing Institute outlined a way for a business to leverage its thought leadership so that an expert from a company is able to land invitations to speaking gigs at conferences. Having a number of blog posts, video clips and other media that demonstrate a person’s expertise in an industry can help that person land on the long, and ultimately, short lists for conference speaking opportunities.

Thought leadership increases a company’s value to customers, by reminding them that the company isn’t only there to sell things. If you aren’t yet using the expertise of your team to build out your company’s PR strategy, there’s never been a better time to start.

Marketing to the 21st century reader

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Changes in technology have led to a major change in the way people approach text and reading. You can see this in several places, from blog posts to today’s bestselling novels.  Although there are still plenty of big, thick novels and long blog posts out there, there’s been a fundamental shift in the way those posts and books are written and formatted.

The 21st century reader is one who skims, who wants whatever it is she’s reading to get to the point quickly. Today’s writing has been largely influenced by social media, which, with its character counts and limits, has shortened what people can say. It’s also been influenced by the introduction of screens. Reading on a laptop, mobile device or e-reader is a very different experience from curling up with a book or newspaper.

In today’s marketing world, you not only want to think about the message you’re presenting to customers. You also want to think about how you convey that message and the best ways to do it.

Think Vertically

Before people began to read on screens, the experience was linear. To get to the next part of an article or story, they’d have to flip a page. Today’s reader is more likely to experience text vertically, meaning he or she more likely to scroll up or down a screen while reading or skimming.

Designing your writing with the vertical reader in mind helps make the text more attractive to that reader and can make him or her more likely to read to the end. One way to embrace the vertical is to use lists, particularly bulleted lists.

When someone is scrolling down a page, a bulleted list is much easier to absorb and take in than a block of text in traditional paragraph form. Bullet points also give the reader the chance to pick and choose the information that’s relevant to him or her right away, versus having to sift through a dense paragraph to find what’s useful.

Break Things Up

Bullet points are just one way to break up the text and make it easier for the modern reader to digest what’s on the screen. It’s also important to aim for brevity, in terms of the length of sentences and paragraphs.

While in previous centuries, a reader might have been OK mentally digesting a large paragraph, today’s reader finds two to four sentence paragraphs much easier to process. Short paragraphs also help guide a reader through a blog post or article. When text is presented in small blocks, with a lot of white space around it, it’s easier on the eyes. People are more likely to keep reading from one paragraph to the next.

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A similar thing occurs in books. Shorter chapters appeal to readers and make them more likely to finish a book. In 2013, the New York Times reported that people are 25 percent more likely to read a book with short chapters until the end.

Don’t just aim for short paragraphs. Go for shorter sentences, too. In an interview with the International Association of Business Communicators, writer, editor and consultant Jeff Herrington lists long sentences as one of the most common mistakes he sees in business writing. Don’t lose a reader in a 60 word, multi-clause sentence. Keep it simple.

Leave Out What People Skip

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It might seem facile to say leave out the boring stuff, but in the age of lots of content, it’s crucial. Don’t bore your readers with long descriptions of places or people. Either let them use their imaginations or trust that they can Google something if they aren’t sure what it is. In a blog post, a link can substitute for lots of descriptive text.

There’s also a lesson to be learned from social media here: That’s to only include the most relevant information to get your point across. Give yourself a limit, such as 140 characters, and see if you can convey your message within that limit.

Read More

One last piece of advice when you’re looking for writing help or ways to modernize your marketing. Read as much as you can, whether it’s marketing material and articles from those in your industry, or entertainment blogs.

Pay attention not only to what the writers of those materials are saying. Look at their format and style. Something about it appeals to you. Once you figure out what it is, try to copy it in your own writing to make it appeal to the 21st century reader.

5 Tips for Creating Eye-Catching Headlines

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 Headlines have always been important for grabbing a reader’s attention and getting him or her to read the rest of an article. In the age of social media shares, headlines have become even more important. Think of all the catchy Buzzfeed or Mashable headlines you see on Facebook feeds.  Or, remember those Upworthy headlines, popular just a year or so ago, and how they almost compelled you to click on a link just to see what the story was?

 Having a great headline — or not — can make or break a piece. According to Copyblogger, 80 percent of people will look at a headline. But, just 20 percent of them will continue to read the content beneath it. To get more readers, an excellent headline is a must.  Following are some methods of writing headlines that grab people’s attentions and turn them into readers.

 Make it Relatable

People are more likely to read something that they feel connects to their lives in some way. This isn’t just true when content is appealing to consumers; it’s also true of content designed to reach a business audience. When writing a headline, think about who your target audience is, then craft a title that lets them see themselves in the headline.

If you work with start-ups or small businesses, an example of an attention-grabbing headline might be “15 Successful Entrepreneurs Share Secrets to Their Success.” An audience of entrepreneurs is going to want to see themselves in that group and is more likely to click through to learn more.

Skip the Question

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 Although you want to create a headline that people or businesses identify with and relate to, it’s usually best if you skip phrasing the headline in the form of a question. A study by Buzzstream and Frac.tl examined Buzzfeed headlines that didn’t do as well others.

Some of the least popular headlines were those phrased as questions. For example, headlines that began with “Are You . . . ?” tended to get the lowest number of shares, even on Facebook, the most popular social network for sharing.

The study’s authors also compared the average number of shares for question headlines to the 15 headlines with the most shares. Question headlines were shared around 25,000 times, while the most popular non-question headlines were shared nearly 84,000 times each.

Establish Authority

Another way to turn readers off is to let them know upfront that a post is from a person who may not be an authority or expert on a subject. The Buzzstream/Frac.tl study found that Buzzfeed headlines that featured the phrase “Community Post,” meaning they were written by a user, were shared 845 percent less than the site’s most popular headlines.

You don’t have to introduce yourself in headline. But a headline that reads “15 Board Certified Doctors Weigh in on New Medical Device” reassures a reader that people in a position of authority and who are qualified to weigh in on a topic are providing input.

Use a Number

The headline to this post, and all the sample headlines included it in have one thing in common: they all include a number. Including a number in the headline puts people’s minds at ease, as it gives them a basic idea of what they can expect. If your headline is “11 Ways to Increase Comments on Your Blog,” a person who clicks on it knows he or she is going to see 11 tips for getting more comments.

The structure of numbered posts can also be easier for people to read. Since the post will most likely be in list form, a reader can quickly skim it to see if there is useful information or not.

Promise Something Big

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This last tip comes with a big caveat. You want to grab a reader’s attention by promising something exciting or new. You also want to make sure the post lives up to its headline. For example, if a headline reads “13 New Ways to Get Leads,” and the actual article lists 13 well-known, fairly obvious methods of getting leads, you’ll let down the reader,  and he or she is  going to be less likely to share your post, or return for more.

Headlines are your way of introducing yourself, your business, and your content to readers. Don’t skimp when it comes to writing them. Since a headline is the first (and in some cases, the last) thing a reader sees, you want it to be a few words that will really impress.

How to get people to share your content

 When you create and publish a blog post, infographic, or other piece of content, there’s always the hope in the back of your mind that your piece will go viral, becoming a social media sensation that people just can’t help but share. It can seem that having something go viral is based more on luck than anything else, but that’s actually not true.

 Getting more people to share your content has little to do with luck and everything to do with art and science. If you’ve noticed that companies similar to yours have promoted pieces that have had more shares than yours (while not offering the same level of quality), it could be that they are doing some things differently. It’s not just what you write about or how well you write about it. How much you write, the tone of your piece, and who you get to comment on or share your content all influence its popularity.

Find the Influence

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Although high school is years, if not decades away for many people, the world of social media is still a big popularity contest. You don’t have to push your way into the “in” crowd online to get shares and attention on your posts. But, you do want to reach out to the proverbial “cool kids” of the internet, the influencers who have the clout to drive views, likes and retweets to your content.

Over at Kissmetrics, Mark Trueman outlines a 3-step to plan to find and reach out to influencers. Your goal here is to have them share your content, whether it’s a blog post, video or something else. He recommends that you start by finding blog posts or other content that covers a topic similar to what you are writing about. You can find similar posts by doing a Google search for the topic and the name of a popular blog in your niche.

Next, you want to find out who has linked to the post and how influential that person is. Bit.ly will not only shorten the length of a URL for you, it will also show you who else has shared the same link, where they shared it, and how many people clicked on that the link when shared.

If a few people got a lot of clicks when they shared a post similar to yours, it can be worth your time to reach out to them about sharing your own post. Keep your email note short and sweet. All you need to say  is something along the lines of “Hi, I saw that you shared this post on this topic. I wrote a post on a similar topic here, that I thought you might be interested in.” Trueman notes that it can be helpful to make contact with the person before you ask for a share, such as by leaving a comment on his or her blog, but you can also try cold e-mailing people.

Look on the Bright Side

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It turns out that people like to feel good when they read or look at content online.  A study conducted by BuzzSumo looked at 10,000 of the most shared pieces of content on the web. As part of its analysis, the company assigned an emotion to each piece. It turned out that the pieces that caused people to feel awe, amusement or to laugh were the most likely to be shared. A quarter of the popular pieces awed people, while 17 percent made them laugh and 15 percent caused amusement.  Joy was another popular emotion, at 14 percent.

On a similar note,  research from Dan Zarrella, a “social media scientist,” finds that people are less likely to follow social media accounts that use a negative tone. Looking at more than 100,000 accounts, he found that the more negativity on the account, the fewer followers it had.

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Go In-Depth

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While you might think short and sweet pieces end up being more popular on social media, BuzzSumo’s research suggests the opposite.  The longer a post or article is, the more likely people are to share it. The company’s research found that pieces with more than 3,000 words were more likely to be shared than pieces with fewer than 1,000 words.

Part of that might have to do with the fact that there isn’t much online when it comes to long-form, in-depth posts. According to BuzzSumo, there are 16 times more short-form (1,000 words or fewer) posts than there are posts with 2,000 or more words. It does require more time and effort on your part to write an article or blog post that is more than 2,000 words. But, if it ends up increasing the reach of your content, the extra effort can be well worth it in the end.

Getting more people to see your content is a worthwhile goal, especially in the competitive world of content marketing. But, remember that getting shares is just part of the process. You want to keep producing content that is high quality and that will keep people coming back for more.

Like a well-oiled machine: how to manage your blog

The best bloggers make it look all too easy. They consistently publish interesting and relevant posts and get people to talk about their posts, either in the comments section or on social media. They never seem at a loss for ideas. But, as with anything that looks easy to do on the surface, there’s a lot more that goes on with blogging behind the scenes.

It takes a lot of work to create an outstanding blog, more than simply having a few things to write about every now and then. Persistence and planning will help you create an exciting blog, one that you can use to measure your company’s success.

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Create a Calendar

The first step to managing your blog is creating an editorial calendar, which sets out the posting schedule for the week or month ahead. An editorial calendar helps you plan your posts and will give you an idea of where and when you might need more content. Most importantly, having a calendar and some sort of content strategy will help your blog be more effective, according to a 2014 survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute.

Your blog’s editorial calendar can be as in depth or bare bones as you’d like it to be. For example, you can include the subject of the post, the date it’s due, and its publish date, and be done. Or, you can include more details about each post, such as keywords, how you’ll promote it, and the persona you’ll use when writing the post (more on that below). There are many free calendar templates available online, such as this one from HubSpot, or you can create your own in Excel or using Google Calendar.

Know Your Audience

Knowing who reads your blog and what their level of experience with your niche is will help you better tailor your posts to them. It’s also possible that a number of different demographics read your blog, meaning that you’ll want to tailor some posts to the experts among your audience and some to the beginners. Customizing your posts to specific audiences also can mean creating separate personas as content dictates.

Creating a persona is about more than just understanding what a particular reader is looking for. It also involves knowing when that reader might be more likely to click through to your blog. For example, if one of your blog personas is a busy professional, it’s more likely that readers you are attempting to target will read your blog on the weekend or in the evening. But, if another one of your personas is a stay-at-home parent, those targeted readers might be more likely to read your blog in during the day, when the kids are taking a nap.

If you assign each post a persona when putting it in your editorial calendar, you’ll have a much better idea of the tone to take with the post, the level of complexity to include, and when to schedule it.

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Keep the Ideas Flowing

As we discussed in our last post, a great blog needs great content that is both relevant to the widest possible audience and lets people take something away from the post. At the same time, your blog also has a constant need for new content.

Brainstorming ideas for posts can be a time consuming component of managing a blog. But, there are some ways to streamline the process. One way to is tie your post to something that is trending in social media or online at the time. For example, if you own a dress shop or fashion blog, the recent furor over “the dress” could have provided at least one post about ways to style a blue and black (or white and gold) dress.

You might also consider using a content generator when you’re really pressed for ideas. The title generator from Portent.com automatically creates a post title for you once you put in a subject or noun. Not all of the titles will work for you, but it can be a useful tool when you’re absolutely stumped and don’t know what you’ll write about next.

Analyze It

Analyzing your blog, using Google Analytics or another tool, helps you measure the areas that are doing well and getting a lot of traffic and see which areas aren’t as engaging. Looking at your blog’s statistics, you might realize that you need more posts on certain topic or posts that feature more images. Or, you might realize that one of your guest bloggers is incredibly popular, and might be worth working with on a more regular basis.

Like Rome, great blogs aren’t built in a day. It takes a lot of behind the scenes work to build your company’s blog and turn it into a well oiled, smoothly running machine.

4 ways to make your blog stand out

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These days, a blog should be a part of every business' communications and marketing strategy. The 2014 Fortune 500 and Social Media study, from the Charlton College of Business Center for Marketing Research, at UMass Dartmouth, found that 31 percent of Fortune 500 companies ran a corporate blog. The top 200 companies were more likely than the lower 300 companies to keep a blog, and 40 percent of the top five companies have their own blogs. Even as other forms of communication and social media become popular, blogging remains an important tool.

While the benefits of blogging are well documented, particularly when it comes to increasing a company's customer base, how to create and maintain a blog that engages with people and that is worth reading is a little less clear. Whether you are already blogging or are thinking of getting started, keeping a few things in mind will help you create a blog that gets people's attention.

Have Great Content

A blog is nothing without content, but content on its own isn’t enough to get people to read it or to share posts. What you put on your blog, whether it’s a short essay, a video clip, or an infographic, needs to be helpful and relevant to your audience. In a post on Ragan.com, Mark Schaefer highlights the top 10 non-tech industry blogs out there.

What do the majority of those blogs have in common? They all have great content. In the case of Whole Foods Market’s Whole Story blog, the posts reflect the retailer’s culture while providing useful tips and information to shoppers. The posts aren’t exactly salesy, but many of them highlight ways to put items commonly sold at Whole Foods to use in daily life.

Another way to develop great content for your blog is to avoid playing it safe. In many cases, blog posts that take a controversial stance or that highlight a poster’s opinion create the most engagement, as people are more likely to want to state their own opinion and strongly agree or disagree with the subject of the post.

Part of being somewhat controversial in terms of content is understanding your blog’s niche audience. Some of the things you say will appeal to the audience and not to others, which is OK. If you try to please everyone with your blog, you might end up pleasing no one.

Keep Things Up to Date

Over time, blog posts can get stale or become outdated. Keep your posts up-to-date so that your blog continues to offer useful information to readers. That can mean revisiting a post that was popular a year or so ago and putting a new spin on it, providing new information or updated stats, or writing a new post that continues the discussion begun in the first one.

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Make it Search Friendly

When you’re blogging, you’re not only producing content for human consumption, you’re producing content for search engines. A fantastically written, incredibly helpful blog post won’t make much of an impact if no one can find it. Hubspot, an inbound marketing platform, has a checklist of the things every blog needs to be search engine friendly.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is constantly changing, as Google continues to update its algorithms to make sure that it’s providing the most relevant search results to users. The search engine has penalized blogs and websites that bend the rules to increase their search rank. Along with following an SEO checklist from a company such as Hubspot or using the SEO tools included in your blogging platform, it’s a good idea to keep up with Google’s guidelines, so that you know that your blog is following the rules.

Befriend Other Bloggers

A blog is as much about personality as it is about content. In his post on Ragan.com, Schaefer notes even some of the best blogs flounder because it’s unclear who’s writing the posts or what the stories of the blogs’ authors are. Engaging with and building relationships with other bloggers, either by commenting on other blogs or by interacting on social media, will help personalize your company’s blog. Seek out other blogs in your business’ niche, for example, and start reading and commenting on their posts. Join relevant LinkedIn groups and share your posts when applicable or create a Pinterest account and pin your own posts, as well as posts from others that you found useful.

Admittedly, blogging is a lot of work. But, in the best of cases, a blog lets you get to know your customers a bit better and helps your customers get to know you. If the top companies in the country are finding blogging beneficial, think of what it can do for you.