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Content Trainer, 10+ Years of Content Marketing Expertise, Content Marketing Trainer
January 27th, 2021
It’s the beginning of a brand new year, which, for me, means two things:
I’m busy making new year’s resolutions that, if I’m being truthful, I’ll likely break before February. Every year I say I’m going to eat healthier, but I quickly realize that kale tastes nothing like bacon cheeseburgers and that makes me sad. And when I’m sad, I console myself with bacon cheeseburgers.
I start getting emails, messages, and DMs from clients, friends, and connections asking me, “Kevin, what’s the latest business blogging tactic I need to know this year?”
Yup, it’s that special time of year where every content marketer spends the first few weeks of the new year furiously trying to figure out an advantage over their competitors.
Are you in the same boat? Well, of course, you are. Why else would you be reading this article?
Unfortunately, it’s with a heavy heart that I must inform you that I don’t have any new top-secret SEO tricks, tips, hacks, or content gimmicks to game the system in your favor. I just don’t.
When I sat down to write this article about the hottest business blogging tactics to propel your business into the future and beyond, I started thinking about all the content I’ve produced over the last seven years and all the content I’ve helped my clients create.
When I looked at what made these articles truly effective, I realized that the most important business blogging strategies haven’t really changed; rather, they’ve become increasingly proven every year.
1. Write for people, not search engines
Most business blogging tactics I’ve heard over the past few years usually focus on how to please search engines. If we can please these almighty search engines, they might just favor us enough to put our content in front of real people.
But I 100% believe this is the wrong way to create content.
When you’re writing for search engines, you’re not always writing for the people you want to actually read your content. You’re trying to speak the language of robots, not the language of your audience.
For a long time, one of the top SEO trends was all about cramming your page with as many keywords as possible, but how did that end up working out for marketers?
I’m not saying throw everything you know about SEO out the window. Structure, titles, URLs, meta descriptions, outbound links, inbound links, multimedia, etc. all still apply as best practices, but those should be secondary considerations.
First and foremost, show people you understand their problems and promise to help them find the best solutions for them. My friend Liz Moorehead, IMPACT’s Director of Content, said it best, “write for people first, then optimize for search engines,” and with good reason.
Even search engines eagerly want to think like real humans. Every algorithm update focuses on the people behind the search: what problems are they experiencing, what solutions are they looking for, what pages truly address the issues they’re facing?
Whenever there’s a new algorithm update, those who tried to play the system are the ones left scrambling as their analytics tank.
A lot of businesses that get into blogging often have no idea what they should write about.
So what do they do? They often default to talking about what they know best: themselves. They write “articles” about changes within the company, product launches, collaborations with other businesses, awards they’ve won, or which soccer team they’re sponsoring.
Other companies write articles they think will be interesting to their audience; fluffy articles that may catch people’s attention as they scroll through social media, but don’t do much to drive leads or sales — which all great content does.
What’s the fix?
Focus on answering the questions your prospects have about the products and services you offer that will help them make informed purchase decisions. You can and should have a healthy content mix, yes, but these questions cannot be neglected if you want a truly effective content strategy.
If you’re struggling with where to start, I highly suggest focusing on The Big 5 as described in Marcus Sheridan’s book, They Ask, You Answer. The Big 5 focuses on the questions most people ask as they’re navigating their way through an important buying decision.
They want to know how much a product/service costs, how it compares to similar options, which vendors are the best to buy from, what problems they may encounter from their choices, and reviews of products they’re considering buying.
These are the questions that people are entering into search engines when they begin their buyer’s journey and that can ultimately tip the scale as to what products and services they choose to go with as well as which vendor to buy from.
Cut the fluff, answer the tough stuff.
3. Build trust with your audience
People want to buy from brands they trust; brands they know will deliver on their promises and give them their money’s worth. They don’t want to buy from brands that are only out to make a sale whether or not they actually provide value to their customers.
This is especially important after a year that was so trying emotionally, physically, and financially for pretty much everyone.
So show them that you’re a brand of your word. Set out to be the most honest, transparent, and trustworthy source of information in your industry. One of the best ways you can do this is by focusing on the problems, needs, and desires of your audience whether they end up buying from you or not.
So, don’t hold back or hide anything.
Are there issues with your products and services? Are there people who are not a good fit for what you offer? Are there other solutions people should consider (even if you don’t offer those solutions)?
If there’s an elephant in the room, don’t throw an afghan over it and call it a couch. Nobody is going to believe they just stepped in a steaming pile of couch droppings. If people suspect you’re not being completely straight with them, they’ll leave in search of someone more honest.
Be educational without being too salesy.
When people are researching a purchase decision, little red flags will go up if they feel you’re not really trying to help them make the best decision for them but instead trying to steer them towards buying from you. …
People are more likely to buy from brands they trust. You can start to build this trust by focusing your blogging efforts on educating your audience. Write articles addressing the tough questions they want answers to. Give them real, genuine answers that help them make the best decision for them. Doing this will show people that you’re not just here to sell or close a deal, but to help.
So, aim to be the best teacher in your industry. However, remember: It is okay to be a little salesy in your content. One mistake people make is that when they’re only educational, their audience might say, “wow, that was really helpful. I learned a lot. Now I gotta figure out who to actually buy from.”
Use the 80/20 rule when writing blog articles. 80% of the article should be strictly educational and 20% can be used to promote your services. They can’t buy from you if they don’t know you have a solution.
4. Give appropriate next actions
Even if you follow all three pieces of advice found above, your article can still fall flat on its face.
Your articles should be aimed at a specific problem people have and help guide people towards a solution that works for them; however, I see lots of great articles that do this and end up performing poorly (in terms of bounce rates and conversions) because they didn’t know how to wrap things up.
When I review these articles, I often see the same three mistakes made:
No outro. Often, once the main points have been made, the article ends abruptly. Sure, you may have educated folks on the point at hand, but you don’t give any direction for what comes next.
A conclusion that only summarizes the article. Many bloggers default to the old college five-paragraph easy technique that includes a “conclusion” that neatly summarizes what has been learned, but again, it speaks nothing of what comes next.
The hard sales pitch. The companies that do give next actions to readers often go straight to the bottom-of-the-funnel by suggesting a purchase or a consultation. If the reader isn’t at that stage of their journey, they’re not going to take you up on your sales pitch.
What’s the solution? Consider where your audience is in their buyer’s journey, and where your blog article falls. If someone is just starting to research their problems, are they really ready for a consultation?
Look closely at the topic of your blog article and ask yourself, “what is the next logical step for readers at this stage in their journey?”
Should they read more related content? Is there a video they should watch? Is there some sort of downloadable resource you can give them? Is there a webinar or event they should attend? Put yourself in their shoes and make your conclusion and call-to-action reflect their needs.
This is the most important blogging tactic that I’ve had to come to terms with myself — and it’s been a tough one for me to accept.
In previous years, I focused heavily on showing the effectiveness of blogging through vanity metrics.I loved viewing metrics in SEMrush and HubSpot that show my numbers (keywords, traffic, leads) increasing up and to the right (the hockey stick graph), but if we’re honest, those are not the most important metrics.
New customers and increases in revenue are the real metrics that show business blogging success.
Too often, as marketers, we focus on bringing the traffic and leads to our site. Once those leads convert, we leave it up to the sales teams to close them into customers. We wash our hands and move on to the next inbound blog article.
But then how do we know that what we created was actually effective?
While content that brings in traffic is great at introducing your brand to new people, the highest return comes from getting content into the hands of prospects who are considering purchasing from our company.
Sales teams can also send appropriate content to prospects to help educate them ahead of sales calls. This process is called assignment selling and has been proven to shorten the sales cycle when done right.
Your marketing and sales team need to align on the importance of content used in the sales process. If you’re creating content that helps people make critical decisions, it should not only bring in sales-qualified leads, but your sales team should actively use your content in their process.
To take things further, members of your sales and marketing team should meet regularly to discuss topics that will benefit the sales team in closing deals. We call this specialized team the revenue team.
How to continue improving your business blogging skills
Well, there you have it, my top five business blogging tactics for 2021 — or really, any year.
Should I give you a quick recap of what we’ve learned? No! Of course not.
Instead, let’s continue building your knowledge on all things business blogging. I’ve got a handful of really helpful articles for you to check out.
First up, The Definitive Guide to Business Blogging. If you felt we didn’t go over enough on-page tactics to include in your blogging strategy, this guide, that clocks in at over 11,000 words, will teach you all the nuances you need to know to craft a winning article.
From how to write intros, what to include in the body, to crafting outros, and so much more, this piece of content arms you with everything you need to be dangerous on the page.
Once you cover The Big 5, you probably want to know, “what the heck else should I write about?” After sifting through hundreds of clients’ websites, Google Analytics, and HubSpot portals, I’ve found several other universal topics important to buyers across all industries. If you’re ever stumped on what to write next, pick a topic from the 17 Business Blog Topics Your Audience Wants You To Write.
Good luck on building your blogging strategy out this year, but I gotta admit, all this talk about blogging has made me extremely hungry. I’m off to eat big ol’ greasy bacon cheeseburger, hold the kale.
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