A few weeks ago, Stacy wrote an entertaining post providing several reasons that you should quit (or not start) blogging. As she shared, blogging requires a considerable amount of work, discipline and patience. The upside for those willing to make the commitment is one of the most effective tactics available to grow traffic, generate and nurture leads and establish a leadership position in your market.
The good news is that it doesn’t appear that many people have followed Stacy’s advice. The bad news is that despite the increased efforts that companies are putting towards blogging, I regularly see common, simple and correctable mistakes being made that will have devastating impacts on the results companies will gain from those efforts.
Here are the five I see most:
1. Poor Titles
If growing traffic or engagement is a priority, then the titles you create for your blogs are almost as important as the blog itself. There are two criteria that should guide how you title your blogs:
- It should directly support your keyword and SEO strategy.
- The title should should enable your desired personas to quickly understand what the blog is about and highlight why they should want to read it.
A strong, provocative title is a plus, but only if it meets these two criteria. Creativity is a great attribute, so long as it doesn’t confuse your reader.
The failure to follow these rules is the most common blog mistake I see. For example, one of my personal favorite titles on this blog was my post, “What do Bach, Beethoven, Bruce Springsteen and Eminem Have In Common?” That is actually a bad title. None of Imagine’s target personas are likely to search for this topic, and when they see it they have no idea what it’s about. This forces them to think (which they’re not likely to do) and the content (which is actually quite good and is an important concept we aim to teach) is likely to be ignored.
Remember that readers are most likely to first see your post through one of three means: as the result to a search query, through email because they subscribe or in an RSS reader. In all of these cases, the reader will make a very quick decision as to whether they will actually click to engage.
One caveat, as your blog gains traction and if you’re blogging multiple times per week, you can violate this rule on occasion. Be sure you have a clear purpose for violating the rule, and understand that these posts will likely not perform strongly for attraction purposes.
2. Fail To Teach
I often say, people click for their reasons, not for yours. The same can be said for reading blogs. Your prospects find and read blogs because they have questions they’re seeking answers to and problems for which they’re seeking insights. If you’re not providing insights to their problems and their situations, then the blog won’t drive the results you’re looking for. The same can be said for the offers you’re highlighting in your calls to action.
When developing your editorial calendar you should typically break up your blog content along these lines:
- 60-70% should be aimed at the top or above the funnel.
- 20-25% should be aimed at the middle of the funnel.
- 10-15% should be aimed at the bottom.
Top of funnel content should be totally focused on your prospect’s world, not yours. The most effective content at the top does one of three things:
- It helps your reader to diagnose a problem they are dealing with more effectively.
- It provides the means for your reader to assess what they’re currently doing to discover they have a problem they didn’t know they had.
- It provides actionable, how-to type instruction that enables your reader to do something different.
The simplest way to know if you’re adequately “teaching” is to ask yourself what your desired reader can do as a result of reading your blog post, even if they never talk or engage with you further. For example, this post is designed to help you identify why your blog efforts are, or are not, working. Additionally, it can serve as a checklist to compare your efforts to (if you don’t realize you have a problem), and lastly it provides instruction so you can start creating better blog posts.
Recently I was assessing the blog for a technology services provider. The bulk of their blogs focused on topics like the importance of taking a certain viewpoint on managing technology or on how they manage certain technical processes. The problem is that it didn’t really teach the reader anything (except maybe the writer is really smart). As a result, the posts never gained any real traction and have no conversion to speak of.
By the way, HubSpot did a very deep study on the type of blog posts that work that share more on this concept.
3. Too Promotional
Being too promotional is a close cousin to the failure to teach. Keep your blogs focuses on your readers needs, not on what you think makes you so special. It’s okay to share how you may do something, so long as it’s instructional and not (too) self serving.
The best promotion you can have is when someone reads a post from your company and feels that it’s so on point that they want to:
- Click further into your blog.
- Download an offer highlighted.
- Come back to read more posts.
When you make a post about you and/or your company (like adding the an about you paragraph at the end of every post), you simply make it a commercial and no one has the time to read that (nor do they desire to share it).
I was looking at a company’s blog recently. They’d written a post about 10 days before I looked at it, the one before that was a month old, the one before that was like 3 months old and the next previous one was like 6 months. I remember thinking, these people don’t have much to say.
I’ve also seen blogs that post 2 - 3 posts in a single week, then nothing for a couple of weeks, then one, then nothing for two weeks, where they blast a few more and the cycle repeats. While this averages out to a solid pace, it’s not as effective as if they posted more consistently.
There are two primary reasons for this:
- Sites that post new content consistently see better search results and progress than sites that do so intermittently.
- When you’ve got the attention of a prospect you want to be sure you keep it. When you’re posting new, valuable content on a consistent basis, you’re more likely to stay top of mind, than when you’re posting haphazardly.
Several years ago, we made the commitment to post on a pretty consistent schedule. And while we don’t keep to the specific schedule 100%, we do pretty well. Since we made that commitment, we’ve seen tremendous (and consistent) progress in our search traffic, subscription base and in lead conversion.
About two months ago, I was reviewing the demand generation efforts of a company that has been practicing inbound for several years. While they saw strong results early, the last 18 months were represented by a plateau and some regression.
A review of their blog showed they had made quite a commitment. They were blogging 3 - 4 times per week and had been maintaining that pace for almost two years. Yet there was virtually no growth in traffic and there was actually a decrease in leads generated and conversion.
The problem was that they way they kept that type of pace for content was that they had a bunch of different people write for the blog. Now there’s nothing wrong with a multiple author blog. Done properly, the more contributors the better.
The problem here was that the topics, styles and focus were all over the place. There was no editorial philosophy and nothing built on each other. As a result, the blog wasn’t returning what was needed to justify the effort and investment.
Make no mistake, blogging is a powerful tactic and one we recommend for just about any business looking to consistently grow. Follow a few simple rules, and you’ll see the results that have so many exclaiming blogging’s benefits.