What are the best practices when blogging?

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Our last blog post has been nothing short of remarkable.

In just a few weeks since it was published, that single post has had many thousands of visitors, created a huge amount of positive and negative response and generated lots of very valuable discussion, as well as enquiries for our business.

This happened for a number of reasons, so I thought it would be interesting to explore a few of these and see if we can establish some best practices when blogging.

First, it had a controversial topic.

For those who haven’t read it yet, the blog post discusses the idea that SEO is now dead or dying. This is partly due to the search engine’s control over the listings and also the need to generate revenue.

Unless there is an infinite pot of marketing money, for the major search engines, this is almost inevitably at the expense of businesses who are using an SEO approach instead of paying for clicks.

We also explored what kinds of marketing we could do to replace it.

The title of the post was actually a direct quote from a company I spoke to, who lost much of their ranking, due to the use of ‘non-compliant’ SEO techniques. This also posed the question of who decides what is and isn’t compliant?

I replied to that company, much like the blog post explained – it is better to spread the risk by doing lots of different types of marketing and also try to focus on marketing channels you can control more. I am going to explore this in a separate post – which will be here when it is ready.

Why does controversy light up social media channels?

Well let’s face it, social networks are exactly that – social. They enable feedback.

A website is a one way street.

On a ‘traditional’ web page, I tell you how things are and…well you either accept them or you don’t. I can write what I like and even if you know it to be wrong, there isn’t much you can do about it.

So how does a blog post differ?

Blogging is a bit like social networking. Every well constructed blog, provides the ability for the reader to reply, engage and discuss. This can either increase or reduce the controversy, depending on the audience. Connect a blog to a social network and you now have a ‘super network’, all of it working together to create more and more engagement.

Discussion is an inherently social phenomenon. In fact, social networks like Twitter are almost entirely about replying and discussing. Facebook is the same. Linkedin is trying to be the same.

Another way a blog post differs from a ‘traditional’ web page is the title and the content. Most ‘traditional’ web pages are fixed for a long period and written in such a way to appeal to search engines, rather than people. Blog posts are generally conversational, informal and written to appeal to people.

Some people pointed out that the title – “SEO is Dead” is designed to attract people and that would be fair. It would however, be a little crazy to write a boring and unshareable title after spending so much time writing it. There is a lesson on that, however, a blog is designed this way.

I may be wrong, but surely 10,000 visitors to a blog post with a zany title and mediocre content, is probably better than 5 visitors to a masterpiece. (Just check out some of the biggest sites on the internet for examples!)

Bear in mind that thousands of great companies disappear every day because no-one knows they are there. Millions of websites have no visitors because no-one knows they are there.

Blowing a red top.

We can learn a lot from the tabloid press in regard to blogging and social media. The content may not always be perfect, but they know what sells that content – the headline. More recently social networks like Twitter have also adopted another tabloid favourite – the image that accompanies it.

For anyone complaining about the use of catchy and controversial headlines, the media have been doing this since at least the 1700’s and probably since we could talk. In fact – here is an example from a very old blog post of ours!

If this is how humans’ brains work, I would suggest we need to learn from our ‘old’ media brethren. After a slow start, they are after all, doing a sterling job of dominating the ‘new’ media too!

Here are some interesting stats too.

The total number of visitors to that single page in the 3 weeks since it was published is approaching 5,000. Now I know that in comparison with a lot of major sites, those numbers aren’t huge, but we are a fairly niche b2b marketing business and those volumes are pretty good for a single post.

Also bear in mind that people are moving around the site to other areas. This generates some nice awareness of what we do and how we can do it for other businesses.

The bounce rate has varied between 5 and 14%, (it is getting higher as we move further from the publish date), so that also looks good from an engagement perspective.

More response quicker.

What is more interesting is the speed at which those visitors are delivered.

As far as I can tell, at this point, Google hasn’t delivered many results to that page from search. That isn’t necessarily surprising as it can take some time for pages to be indexed and list – as we all know. This maybe underlines the biggest difference in terms of relevance. If social delivers up to date, fresh content quickly, does this mean it is often more relevant than search?

The Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook clicks however, all started immediately after the blog post was shared. Within 3 days, we were getting 1,000 clicks a day. That reduced again to 100-200 within a week and now it has stabilised at 100+ a day.

Other than the initial sharing however, which was done once, by one person, there has been no additional sharing. We wanted to see exactly what the impact of this would be, so it made sense to assess this in isolation.

Obviously, like old newspapers, it isn’t long before they become virtual chip wrappers. That may be when ‘SEO’ takes over in the longer term as Google notices the tremendous popularity of the content and decides it is now time to unleash it onto the people without social network accounts.

So what is the takeaway I can use in my business?

It is no longer enough to design your content just for ‘SEO’ purposes. If anything, you need to ‘multi-optimise’ your content for all online marketing channels.

Your content needs to be optimised for sharing, discussion and engagement. This sounds simple but it really isn’t.

A major advantage of using a blog is that you can tweak the content, the image, the title and the headings as you get feedback from sharing it with the audience. A major benefit of connecting everything to social networks, is that this feedback comes in very quickly, often enabling real time changes to be made to improve this even further!

You are thinking “I can do that, just show me how.” Unfortunately, there is no formula for this. You have to use the visitor feedback and the analytics to do the adjustments. We have been blogging since 2006 and sometimes the best content flops, while the ordinary stuff flies.

Over time, you can probably gauge what works best for YOUR¬†audience – remember every audience is different. You need to get to know yours better by doing some content and seeing what makes them tick…and click.

Remember there is a separation between the content and the headline. You can write a piece of content and then share it with different headlines. Eventually, you may just find the one that hits. Having said this, bombarding your social networks with the same content and different headlines may have the reverse effect so take it easy.

We have thousands of tips like this and as well as offering marketing solutions and fulfilment, we train companies in how to do this for themselves. We are UK based, though the shrinking world means, we can also do something if you are on sunnier shores. (UK weather reference there for those who missed it!).

Whatever you think, please feel free to get in touch, we always try to reply or simply add to the comments below!

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About the Author:

Jim Lawrenson has spent 20 years working with clients including many of the FTSE 100 as well as hundreds of SME's to develop their B2B Sales and Marketing. From training people to sell at the age of 17, to becoming Director of the largest outbound marketing company in the UK, his innovative approach to marketing means that his clients are always ahead of the competition.