Online marketing

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.

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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.

It’s 2015: Four PR and marketing New Year’s resolutions to make (and keep) for your company

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The champagne corks have been popped, the clock has struck 12, and the ball has dropped. That means it’s another new year, and time to make resolutions to improve your business, your marketing strategy, and your overall reach in 2015.

New year’s resolutions can fall into the realm of cliché — who hasn’t resolved to lose 10 pounds or to spend more time at the gym, at least once?– but they can also be a useful tool for revamping your company’s marketing and PR strategy in the coming year. As 2015 gets underway, a make resolution or two to enhance your company, increase its reach, and broaden its customer base.

Reflect and Plan

The start of the new year is a time for looking forward, as well as a time for looking back and reflecting on what worked and what didn’t in terms your marketing and public relations strategy in 2014. You can look back on a particular campaign and examine the aspects of it that brought in more customers or aspects of it that were more challenging than needed or that didn’t pan out the way you had intended.

Once you’ve looked over key events from the past year, resolve to lay out a plan for the year to come. What’s on the calendar for your business in 2015 and what do you hope to achieve over the course of the next 12 months? Your plans for 2015 don’t have to be set in stone, but it is helpful to have a basic outline to serve as a guide.

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Tweak Your Social Media Strategy

Take a look at how your company is (or isn’t) using social media and resolve to improve upon it in 2015. A first step to take is to look at each social network you are (or aren’t) using and determine the type of customer your company reaches, or could reach, on that network.

People use different social media sites for different reasons, as this report from Business Insider demonstrates. Someone is likely to turn to Twitter for news, to LinkedIn to connect with fellow professionals, and to Pinterest or Instagram for lifestyle help.

Figuring out what you’ll say to your audience on various social media platforms is just step one. If you haven’t been the best at actually posting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like, 2015 is the year to get that underway. Start small and resolve to post at least once a day to the social network that’s most likely to appeal to your customer base or audience. As the year goes on, add new networks to the mix. One way to figure out the best social media networks to use is to take a look at where your website is the most popular. SocialCrawlytics crawls your site and provides you with a report that lets you know how often it has been shared and on which networks.

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Commit to Blogging

What’s one way to generate more leads for your business in 2015? Start a blog or commit to posting to your already existing blog more often. According to an infographic from Digital Insights, B2B marketers generate 67 percent more leads by blogging. The majority of people online, 77 percent, read blogs. Blogging also gives you something to share on social media, and keeps your audience in the loop about what is going on in your industry and in your business.

Make Your Goals Measurable

You’ve made your resolutions and now the big question is: “How will you keep them?” The answer is by setting trackable, measurable goals. If you’ve resolved to blog more, for example, set a goal of creating at least one post per week. If you’ve resolved to make better use of social media, set a minimum number of posts per week, then track how well each post performs.

Your goals don’t have to be directly related to your resolutions, either. In 2015, you might aim to expand your company’s media coverage, for example. A measurable goal might be to have your company mentioned in one additional print or online media piece per month. Another measurable goal might be to increase your customer base by 10 percent over the course of the year.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t necessarily made to be broken. Use yours as an excuse to improve upon your company’s marketing and PR strategy. You might not know what 2015 has in store, but making resolutions and setting goals will give you at least some insight into what lies ahead.