website marketing

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Over time, blog posts can get stale or become outdated.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.

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What’s Happening with Social Media and What Does it Mean?

When it comes to social media, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Marketers need to keep on their toes to stay on top of the constantly evolving social media sphere. Just when it seems as though things have settled down and you’ve gotten into a groove with your social media strategy, a new rule or change is handed down, causing you to re-evaluate your methods.

Last year was full of changes for various social networks and this year seems to promise more of the same. Whether you prefer Facebook or have started to branch out and use the smaller social networks, understanding recent changes and knowing what to expect going forward can help you make the best use of social media when it comes reaching out and engaging with your customers.

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Facebook’s Still Top Dog . . . But is Making Some Changes

At the beginning of 2014, the Global Web Index reported that Facebook was still the top social network, but that it had lost a number of teenage users, who were turning to other networks and apps. While it might not be a hit with teens, Facebook continues to be the leader in the social media world.

As an infographic from the Global Web Index shows, the network still has 1.35 billion active users and many of those users log on several times a day. A considerable number of Facebook users are older, with a quarter of them being over the age of 45.

Although people are still using Facebook, its use as a tool for marketers is coming into question. The structure of the site’s newsfeed favors compelling and engaging content, meaning that marketers should consistently bring their “A” game to ensure that their content is featured.. More recently, the company announced that it was taking aim at “promotional posts,” or posts that seem to sell a service or product but aren’t actual, paid advertisements on the site.

The change, which was scheduled to roll out in January 2015, was designed to improve the newsfeed experience for users. It means that if you’re a marketer who’s trying to engage with your customers on Facebook, you’ll need to think beyond blatant sales and promos. Instead, focus on posting things that those who have “liked” your page will want to see, such as people’s experiences with your service or product or articles that are relevant to your industry. The other option is to turn to Facebook ads, suggesting that the “pay to play” model is becoming ever more prevalent in social media.

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Twitter Considers a Filtered Feed

In the social media sphere, a battle rages between the filtered feed, which decides what users see using algorithms, and the real-time feed, which displays every post from the accounts a user follows, at the time that they are posted. Since it first started, Twitter has used a real-time feed, listing posts in reverse chronological order.

The real-time feed has some advantages and some drawbacks for marketers. An advantage is that you don’t have to worry that your post will get filtered out and will remain unseen by your followers. A drawback is that there’s a real risk that your post will get buried, especially if you post at the same time as others or if your followers don’t regularly stay on top of their Twitter feeds.

In September of last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that, according to Anthony Noto, the company’s CFO, changes were in the works for Twitter’s newsfeed. While the chronological order newsfeed remains in place, for now, at least, a few changes have already been made, including showing promoted tweets and tweets that were popular with accounts users follow. So far, the changes made to the site’s feed haven’t been earth shattering, but it will be interesting to see if Twitter does abandon the chronological feed.

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The Underdogs Are Rising in Popularity

While Facebook won’t have to give up its position as the leading social media site any time soon, several smaller sites are rapidly gaining in popularity. The Global Web Index Quarter 3 2014 report found that the Pinterest users increased by 110 percent in 2014 and that tumblr users increased by 120 percent.

Pinterest not only rose in popularity over the past year, it also rolled out some changes to make it more relevant to its users. For example, it now looks at a user’s gender when determining what pins to display in searches. The more fine-tuned search options on the site can give marketers the chance to really reach an interested and engaged audience. It’s just a matter of knowing what your audience is looking for and creating the pins that will provide it.

Using social media is about more than just interacting with customers and getting your message out. It’s also about staying on top of the various changes and developments in each network and keeping up with with the new kids on the block, so that your message really reaches the people it’s meant to reach.

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.

R.I.P.

Those of us of a certain age are old enough to remember when the only way to send a document electronically was via a clunky fax machine (which took forever), and cutting and pasting copy literally involved a pair of scissors and glue. Not surprisingly, many of the marketing, sales and technology innovations which we take for granted today also seem destined for the scrap heap according to this article from Ragan.com. Wonder what’s next?