Blogging for your business is nothing revolutionary. Most business owners have a blog these days (if you don’t, check out this guide to setting up a business blog). Forbes even went so far as to say businesses should “blog or go bust.”
But why do you need a blog? Blogging for your business should never be for kicks and giggles, or worse, to simply “connect with your audience” – what does that even mean?
The answer is simple: you blog to grow your bottom line. That’s it. It’s not to “connect with your people” or to see how many “likes” you get. It’s about affecting revenue at the end of the day. If you’re not thinking this far ahead and setting up metrics to achieve this goal, you’re not blogging for business. You’re blogging as a hobby.
In order to blog with purpose you need to develop a content strategy and a means for tracking measurable goals. Here’s your road map for doing just that and truly affecting your brand’s bottom line.
Devising Your Content Strategy
Don’t worry, creating top-notch content is much easier once you devise a content strategy plan. Follow these six steps to develop relevant, influential content:
1. Determine your audience
You can’t produce relevant content if you don’t know who your readers are or what they need. If you don’t know who your audience is, research your buyers by:
- Interviewing a sample of customers
- Looking at research or case studies your competitors published about their audiences
- Networking with your audience by going to events they are likely to attend
- Hiring an external company to determine your buyer personas
When determining who makes up your audience, be sure you can answer these questions:
- What are their demographics? (Age, gender, education, living situation, life stage, income, employment, etc.)
- How tech savvy are they? (Online usage, depth of online activities, connection speed, etc. Note: If they don’t use the Internet to gather info, you’re going to have trouble blogging to them.)
- Who influences them (sources of influence)? (Internet, magazines, family, TV, etc.)
- What are their needs and desires?
- What are their typical journeys along the decision-making path?
After you answer these questions, you can start telling a story about your personas. Pro tip: Give them a name and face, which makes it easier for your internal team to identify with your core customer base.
Want to target a new customer segment? Go through the same exercise and create buyer personas for the people you want to attract to your business, just make sure you have substantial research to ensure this audience is interested in being a part of your customer community.
2. Determine where your current audience is in the conversion funnel
Once you have determined who your audience is, you need to determine where they are in the conversion funnel, so you can tailor your content to move your audience to the next stage of conversion.
In order to figure out where your current audience is in the conversion funnel, you need to know:
- Where your traffic comes from. You can use Google Analytics to figure out what your traffic sources are.
- How often your audience is returning to your site and the length of stays. Use Google Analytics to generate a visitor loyalty report and a length of visit report, which can tell you how strongly attached your visitors are to your site and how long they stay on your site.
- Your current conversion rate. Determine your current conversion rate using conversion tracking.
By figuring out how people find your site, how often they visit it, how long they stay, and how often they convert, you can start finding the holes in your conversion paths.
4. Learn what questions your customers are asking
You need to determine where your viewers are in the conversion funnel (matched with your personas’ typical decision-making path) in order to figure out what questions they are asking at each stage in the conversion process, so you can tailor your content to answer those questions.
One great way to determine what your personas are asking is by doing keyword research. By determining the keywords searchers used in their queries, you will be able to better understand what types of needs brought viewers to your site, and how you can better meet those needs.
Another less technical way to figure out what your customers are asking is to consult your customer service department. They take customer calls all day, and you may already have a glimpse of the types of questions they get by exploring your FAQs page. Your new philosophy should be “they ask, we answer,” but you need to know the questions they are asking before you can begin to become a useful resource for your customers.
5. Figure out which questions you’ve already answered
Once you figure out what types of questions your personas are asking, get organized. Map the questions each persona asks at each stage of the conversion funnel to create a matrix of questions.
Next up: a content audit. Go through all the content on your site (and I mean all of it) and figure out:
1) which persona does/could it target?
2) what stage in the conversion funnel does this content address? and
3) does it answer any of the questions my consumers are asking?
You should be able to map each piece of content to the above matrix and physically see gaps in your current content inventory. Where there are gaps, you should fill them!
While you ask yourself the above questions to help you map your content, determine if the current content is good (and be honest!). As you go through each piece of content, you should be able to label it as “keep,” “repurpose,” or “toss.” Using these labels (I suggest color coding), you will be able to see where you have great content in each persona’s conversion funnel and where you need to focus your content strategy. Remember, while a content audit is the most tedious, you need to know where you’ve been before you know where you need to go.
6. Establish your blog goals
As you know by now, your blog should always work for your bottom line, but you also need to outline specific goals as to how exactly you want your content to do that, over both the short and long term.
Notice the word specific; keep rephrasing your goals until they are measurable. There is a big difference between the goal to “become a leader in X niche” and “increase user engagement on the blog.” The latter is more easily measurable than the other, so keep asking “what” the goals are until you are able to answer “how” you will measure if you reach your goals.
Remember, your blog goals should be in line with your overall brand strategy. Your blog should not exist as a separate entity, so incorporate your business culture, attitude, and values into your blogging guidelines.
Setup Content Metrics
Once you have fully developed the backbone of your content strategy, you need to implement metrics and setup tracking. Why? So you can streamline analysis, and figure out whether or not your content is being effective.
Metrics can alert you if your content is flopping. We are marketers; we never go down a path unless we can definitively measure whether it is successful or not. The same should apply with content.
Unfortunately, most bloggers only look at consumption metrics, which can tell you how many people are consuming your content (i.e. page views or downloads).
However, as Jay Baer argues, there are four types of content metrics that matter:
1. Consumption metrics
Question answered: How many people viewed or downloaded your content?
2. Sharing metrics
Question answered: How often do viewers share your content?
3. Lead generation metrics
Question answered: How often does content consumption turn into a lead?
4. Sales metrics
Question answered: How often do content consumers turn into customers?
Using these four metrics can give you a richer look into the effectiveness of your content, and whether or not you need to alter what you’re posting.
With all of these core pieces in place, you are ready to start developing an editorial calendar that fills in content gaps and addresses the needs of your specific customer segment. Remember, the key to blogging for your business is to create a blog that is more than just an online diary, but one that has actionable, informative resources that position your brand as an authority in your niche.
By defining your audience and determining which questions they ask, you will be better able to fulfill both theirs and new visitors’ needs—and that will effectively grow your bottom line more than creating inconsistent content that sporadically gets more likes.