Compelling. Funny. Insightful. Original. Let’s face it: you wouldn’t use those words to describe most business’ blogs. Unfortunately, that may also go for your own company’s blog. Here are 11 ways to fix that:
1) Don’t write about yourself.
Usually, a B2B company’s blog is dominated by information about their products or services — features and benefits, updates, upgrades, yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ve all written this type of content, and while some of it does belong in your blog, it should be sprinkled in lightly, not ladled on. Nobody outside your company is going to make it a point to read that self-focused content.
So, if your blog isn’t going to be primarily about your products or services, what should it be about? Think about your target prospects and what matters to them. Define one or two topics in that area that you know something about, or wouldn’t mind learning about in order to better understand your customers. For TechValidate, it’s all about B2B content creation and content marketing, and how that content drives B2B sales.
SEOmoz and Hubspot are two textbook examples of successful companies that have used their informative blogs to drive inbound lead generation.
2) Be consistent.
Commit to a regular posting schedule and stick to it, even if that means some posts will need to be short. A weekly roundup of topical links can be an easy way to have a regular content feature that doesn’t take long to create and is worth subscribing to. If you’re focused on the topics you blog about, you can just save interesting articles that you find over the week. Here are three examples of good weekly roundup posts:
- This Week in B2B Content Marketing: Jan 13, 2012 (one of our own weekly recaps)
- The Inbound Marketing Week in Review
- SEO Recap: Amazing Finds On Twitter This Week
3) Be opinionated.
Have a point of view, even if it will turn some people off. Critique something if you’re an expert in the area. If you find yourself saying “however” and “on the other hand” frequently in your posts, you may be trying too hard not to offend. Having a strong point of view, even if it’s controversial, is important to define your company’s voice, and essential in creating content that people want to share and discuss. Here are three examples of opinionated B2B blog posts:
- 9 Ways to Truly Suck at Lead Management
- What’s Wrong With This Picture? The Stauer Chronograph
- Marketing Emergency: Nobody’s Making Content Worth Reading
4) Wrap your content around real data.
Hard data, especially when put into visual form, is the backbone of many popular blogs. The best source for interesting data to wrap your blog posts around is to collect it yourself, via polls and surveys. If you don’t have time to collect data on your own, there are many public sources for data that you can draw from. The data you present may not be original to you, but if you put it into a chart or provide an original way of looking at the data, you’re still adding value that your readers will appreciate.
As a case in point, the most linked-to posts on our blog in 2011 were all related to our 2011 State of B2B Content Marketing Survey, which we conducted in-house and analyzed in a series of blog posts.
Another nice example is Appirio, which uses charts they’ve published with TechValidate as the centerpiece of their Appirio Research Blog.
5) Make it easy to read.
If you want people to read your blog, it has to be easy to, well, read. Use dark text on a white (or very light gray) background, a body font size of 15 pixels or larger, make sure your line spacing is generous, and add a full blank line between each paragraph. Here are 30 more tips on enhancing your blog’s readability.
6) Break it up.
Break up long blocks of text with headings, call-outs, and bullet points. This makes your content easier to scan, and enhances the clarity of your design. Here’s a nice example of a boxout from the Economist’s website. This technique works just as well in blog posts as it does in printed media.
7) Add photos and videos.
Add images and videos to your posts, even if you don’t have time to create them yourself. SEOmoz analyzed the number of websites linking to each of their articles, and then cross-referenced that against the types of content they had in each post. The data clearly shows the importance of including images and videos in your posts:
One of our favorite techniques for finding interesting images to add to our posts is to search for Creative Commons licensed content on Flickr that is authorized for commercial use. You have to make sure to properly attribute the work, but this is a vast source of free imagery that often has more personality than stock photography. To find the photos with the right licensing terms on Flickr, you’ll need to use their Advanced Search page.
8) Write for people, not (just) Google.
Some business bloggers say “our blog’s goal isn’t to create an audience of regular readers, we just want to generate leads and improve our SEO”.
Congratulations — you’ve got your eye on the ultimate goal for your blog: to help generate inbound leads. However, you’ll have a better chance of converting visitors to leads if they find your content genuinely interesting, and that chance is exponentially higher if they find your content compelling enough to subscribe to (whether via a newsletter, RSS, or social media).
Today, having an audience of actual human readers is also critical to SEO. The larger your audience, the more social sharing your content will have, which is an increasingly important factor in search engine rankings.
So, don’t just focus on stuffing your articles with the right keywords at the expense of readability.
9) Have standards.
I said above that it’s important to stick to a regular posting schedule, but it’s even more important to set a quality standard and communicate it to each team member who will be blogging. The fastest way to turn off a reader is to post weak or poorly-edited content.
Granted, not every piece of content you publish will be your best. The quality — and the traffic — for different posts will follow a power-law distribution. But, stick to your minimum quality standards, even if it means sometimes you won’t get an update out on schedule. Your blog isn’t a daily newspaper.
10) Don’t get trigger-happy.
A corollary to the previous point is to wait before you hit the “publish” button. Once you think your post is finished, read it over, and have a colleague proofread it for you if you can. Even better, write drafts of your most important posts ahead of time so you can come back to them later and read them with fresh eyes.
11) Use lists (just like this).
This post may already be circular enough (after all, I’m trying to write an interesting article about writing interesting articles), but to top it off, I’m going to recommend that you make list-oriented posts a frequent feature of your blog. It may be a cliche, but it’s a cliche that still works.
Research has shown that list-based posts are consistently linked to more than average. They’re also often easier to write, since it lets you choose a theme and flesh it out within a well-defined structure.
Hope you found these tips useful. If you have any more tips to add, please do so in the comments or let us know via Twitter.