With recent changes to the Google algorithm and the continuous growth of social media, using a flexible online platform to engage customers and generate prospects is essential. That's why many online marketers are turning to blogging as a vital part of their integrated marketing communications strategy.
The expansion of popular blogging platforms such as WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr, has made it extremely convenient and easy to start a blog or to integrate one into an existing website. Content management features, plugins, and other tools allow site managers and marketers to continually add fresh, original content that engages audiences. As search engines place more of an emphasis on unique content and user engagement, companies have focused their efforts on building and maintaining blogs.
If you are considering the development of your own blog or would like to do a better job of leveraging an existing blog, focus your efforts on these proven optimization strategies to generate organic traffic and to build a loyal base of followers. Today's most effective blogs depend on a loyal base of readers and advocates who share content willingly. With the addition of social media sharing and other ways to "spread the word," engaging blogs can grow quickly. If you want to effectively develop your blog, consider implementing the following blog-winning strategies.
1. Create expert-generated content. One of the most essential aspects of any blog is creating sticky content that attracts both existing customers and generates interest among your target audience. By leveraging experts at your company or industry, your blog can become a valuable resource that readers turn to again and again. Focus on utilizing experts to create content that meets and exceeds the needs of your target audience. Make sure that experts provide something to your blog that's truly unique as opposed to the same advice they give over and over. The more unique the information, the better. When posting, use bullets, italics and other formatting that make your posts easy to read.
2. Make regular updates. Each year, millions of blogs are created and quickly abandoned. This is because blog managers quickly realize that launching a blog is the easy part. The more challenging aspect of blogging is producing content updates on a frequent basis. To be effective you must have a plan for making content updates. Consider how frequently content will be updated on your blog, 2-3 times per week at a minimum, and who is responsible for posting. Having a specific owner that makes content updates is one of the most important roles associated with blogging success.
3. Focus on social media engagement. Everyone knows that social media is a significant driver of online success. However, not every site, especially blogs that update content frequently, makes it easy to share content across social networks. From a user's perspective, consider how quickly and easily they can share your posts, images and other blog-related assets with their various networks. From Facebook to Pinterest to plain old email, remove all obstacles to social sharing. Most blogging platforms provide builtin tools that allow for effective social sharing. Other sites like AddThis.com provide snippets of code that can be used to implement social sharing icons into your blog.
4. List building. Another great way to leverage a blog is through list building and lead capturing. As readers engage with blog content, it's important to offer multiple opportunities for opting in or converting through some lead-capture device. Something as simple as a newsletter sign-up or free download is a great way to build a powerful list that can be used for marketing, research and referrals. Consider what type of resources and information appeal to your audience and consider no-cost offers designed to build a list. Blog readers tend to be highly responsive when given offers that are relevant to their needs.
5. Monitor user-generated content. Encouraging visitors to leave comments, share articles and interact with different sections of your blog can change the dynamic of your blog. The one caveat is that user-generated content must be carefully monitored. This is easy with moderation tools offered by blogging platforms, but they must be turned on. Consider moderation an essential part of blog management. Although user-generated content shouldn't be edited, blog managers can benefit by considering which content is relevant. A blend of positive and negative comments can encourage additional engagement and dialog.
6. Manage promotional activities. Blogs serve to communicate value-added information and provide resources that are appropriate for your market segment. Making offers and running promotions through a blog can be effective if the delicate balance between information and promotion is managed properly. Too often however, once a blog has built a large or loyal following, bloggers tend to push promotions in favor of valuable content. This can turn off your audience and negatively impact engagement. Before running a promotion, consider how it may be viewed among your audience. If there is any doubt as to the value created by the offer, consider other ways to siphon prospects into a lead funnel such as utilizing free offers or auto responders.
Developing an authoritative blog takes time. Starting with a well through-out strategy that meets or exceeds the needs of your target audience is the best place to start. Blogs can only be effective if proper planning is utilized to leverage experts for quality content and information is updated regularly. As individuals engage with your content, encourage them to share across social networks and provide feedback. This helps to direct future content generation and interaction among your target audience. Blogs are an essential platform for any business to communicate with prospects and customers, engage their audiences and improve site visibility.
About the Author: Michael Fleischner is the author of Blogging Made Simple and other Web-related publications. He is the founder of The Marketing Blog, providing marketing related information, tips and resources to small business owners and marketing professionals. Michael provides marketing related consulting services to leading brands and has appeared on the TODAY Show, ABC World News and other major media outlets. You can follow Michael on Twitter @mfleischner.