Running a company blog is standard business today, as it serves a crucial role in digital and content marketing, helping to drive organic traffic to websites, communicate brand values and guide high-intent visitors further down the sales funnel.
Maintaining a brand blog and routinely updating it with fresh, optimized and highly relevant content should be a major priority for your digital marketing strategy, if it’s not already.
With the right approach and a diligent eye for details, your blog can draw more potential customers to your brand website and give your sales cycle a shot in the arm.
What is a blog, exactly?
It’s a running collection of articles, news items and thought leadership pieces that reflect your brand’s messaging and unique views on industry trends and pain points. More than that, though, a blog is an entry point for potential customers to reach your website, experience what your brand has to offer and jumpstart the buyer journey.
The DNA of the blog can be traced back to the earliest days of the internet, when users published what were essentially digital diaries to share their opinions with like-minded people. Right around the time the dot-com bubble was hitting its peak, the term “weblog” came into use. That was later shortened to the simple “blog” we know and love today. Thanks to the availability of user-friendly content management systems like WordPress, just about anyone can launch and publish their own blog.
Like its forebearers, the modern typical blog functions as an online journal, where individuals and businesses alike can publish all kinds of content, op-eds, news items, industry analysis, educational pieces, company culture highlights, and more.
Content is displayed in reverse-chronological order so visitors are always shown the most recent posts first. Although evergreen content certainly has its place in a blog strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that blogs are – by design – meant to be continually refreshed and updated with new insights and perspectives.
In most cases, a company blog serves a very different function than someone’s personal blog.
Sure, an individual person might be looking for exposure the same way that a brand would, but they probably don’t have the tools to optimize their blog content at scale to improve search rankings and drive more people to their site.
And that exposure may be their end goal, but it’s only just the beginning for a business using its blog as a piece in a much larger digital marketing strategy. Of course, there are exceptions: Industry thought leaders like Neil Patel are likely going to put far more care into their blog since there’s a commercial component and objective.
Blog vs blog post: What’s the difference?
These terms tend to get tossed around interchangeably, but there’s a distinction to be made:
“Blog” refers to the page where your content is published. It includes links to each article, typically accompanied by an extract and feature image.
It’s your entire collection of material, which depending on how active your brand’s bloggers are, could be quite a lot. If you head over to Brafton’s blog page, you’ll see that we have more than 700 pages’ worth of content.
Not 700 posts, mind you; 700 pages.
Meanwhile, blog posts are individual articles you publish on your blog. They may have calls-to-action to keep visitors on the site, direct them to additional, relevant content or even fill out a contact form.
If that seems like just a matter of semantics, keep in mind it’s an important distinction when it comes time to analyze your blog performance, on-page SEO elements and other key site features. That criteria will vary significantly if you’re dealing with a blog vs. a blog post.
Why are blogs important for business?
Blogs serve a crucial purpose in marketing today, whether your company is a B2B or B2C business. A 2017 Content Marketing Institute survey found that the majority of B2B marketers (52%) believed their blogging efforts had the biggest impact on the level of success they achieved with their content marketing strategies. Survey respondents placed blogs above such strategic heavyweights as email marketing, social media and gated content.
Blogs are ideal for supporting a number of common marketing goals:
Driving organic traffic
Blogs that are optimized according to SEO and search ranking best practices land higher in Google SERPs, increasing the chance that users searching for high-intent queries find your site.
If prospective customers are going to find you, outside of a referral or traditional advertisement, odds are they’ll do so through a search engine.
Blogs give you plenty of opportunities to rank for queries that may not be a good fit to include on your home page, product pages or other common website entry points.
Packaged with a deliberate and strategic SEO and search ranking strategy, blogs will bring more visitors to your site and get the customer journey started off on the right foot.
Improving brand awareness
Blogs are also a great way to introduce your brand to people who have never even heard of your company before, let alone your brand mission and values.
Informative and educational blogs that display thought leadership, subject matter expertise and industry authority can make a phenomenal first impression on new site visitors. Many of the blogs we publish are carefully designed long-form content to teach in-house marketers – i.e., our target audience – about different aspects of digital and content marketing.
If they can come away from reading one of our blogs having learned something that can be used in their day-to-day work, that’s a huge win for both our brand and the reader.
They’re not just familiar with our brand, they associate it with content marketing expertise, and are more likely to come back for more tips and advice and, perhaps eventually, our services.
Heavily researched and informative long-form content may also catch the eye of major industry websites and thought leaders, who might then link back to your blog from their own sites. That immediately gives your brand authority and social proof before potential customers have even landed on your site.
And let’s not forget the promotional possibilities of sharing blogs on social networks. There are a lot of different ways to use blogs as brand awareness generators and get your name out there.
As any good marketer knows, organic traffic is not the end all and be all of performance metrics. It’s great to have, of course, but if an increase in site visits doesn’t lead to results that can be quantified in terms of dollars and cents, it’s a bit of a non-starter for those who make marketing budget decisions.
The customer journey can take months to unfold, and your blog can help keep qualified leads engaged as they’re weighing their options or even deciding whether they need to make a purchase at all.
Internal links keep visitors on the site and interacting with new content and pages. CTAs encourage readers to join an email newsletter, download gated content, schedule a demo or speak with a sales representative.
User-generated content is a great way to boost engagement with your audience as well. Letting readers comment on blog posts gives you more opportunities to directly engage with both potential and current customers.
Blogs may be associated with top-of-funnel content but when strategically used, they can continue helping nurture leads as those potential customers near a purchasing decision.
How do you start a blog?
Are you ready to create a blog? Good! Here’s what you need to know to get things underway and start seeing tangible results.
Choose a blogging platform
There are a lot of dedicated blog platforms and more expansive content management systems to choose from, from basic free-to-use options to sophisticated, feature-rich (not to mention expensive) solutions.
If you’re just starting a blog, you may want to look into some of the free blogging platforms that are available. Many of them, like Joomla, have a lot of customization options, so you can tweak the layout, design and interface to some degree.
Joomla is a self-hosted platform, requiring businesses to already have an existing domain name in order to use it. That really shouldn’t be a problem for anyone who’s read this far, though.
WordPress is by far the most popular blogging platform out there, owing to its ease-of-use and affordability. Although you can use WordPress for free, the functionality will be pretty limited, not to mention you’ll have to deal with ads. That being said, if you’re serious about starting a blog to support your brand, it’s worth the extra cost to unlock more advanced features.
WordPress is also heavily supported by its internal development team as well as the expansive user community. New updates and patches are rolled out on a regular basis, so the blogging software’s performance never drags or underwhelms.
When vetting blog hosting solutions, whether you’re looking for free blogging platforms or willing to pay for more functionality, make sure they can meet your uptime, speed and performance expectations.
Identify your target audience
You can’t start writing a blog without first knowing who your reader is. Every aspect of your blog, from the topic selection to style and tone will be dictated by your target audience.
Take the time to research your customer demographics, identify your audience and map out your customer personas. Understand the relationship between those individuals and the people who have the final say on any buying decision. Your core group of readers may be influencers rather than decision-makers, and your blog content should reflect that.
Establish your brand voice
Your blog is an extension of your brand, and it should reflect your message and values with every new post.
A big part of that is maintaining a consistent voice across every blog post. Except for instances where you may host a guest blogger, the style and tone should always align with your brand guidelines and standards.
Our blog, for instance, is aimed at a sophisticated marketing audience, and so the tone we strive to hit with every post is one that is professional, authoritative and informative while also being welcoming, warm and occasionally (and perhaps arguably) funny.
Brainstorm compelling blog topics
Far too often, company blogs serve as nothing more than as platforms for self-promotion. While company culture pieces and case studies are always welcome additions to any B2B website, they shouldn’t dominate your blog.
You want to engage, entice and help readers in a meaningful way. That means placing yourself in your audience’s shoes when developing content:
- What matters most to them?
- What do they struggle with?
- What information can you impart that will improve their lives in some way?
Craft content topics around the answers to those questions, and you’ll have a more engaged audience on your hands.
What are some blogging best practices?
Regardless of your industry or audience, there are some general best practices to follow when writing a blog.
Best time to post
We hear a lot about modern customers being constantly connected to their devices and browsing the internet 24/7. That doesn’t mean you can just post a blog at any time and expect it to gain traction, though.
There’s a reason companies put out press releases sharing potentially unflattering or poorly received news on Friday afternoons: No one’s really paying attention once the weekend rolls around.
B2B companies should publish blogs when their site visitors are the most active. Conventional wisdom would say that’s on weekday mornings when people have just gotten to work but aren’t quite ready to start responding to emails or dive into an assignment.
That may not be the case for your site, though. Your peak period could be during lunch, late in the day or at the end of the work week.
The only way to know for sure is to check out your site metrics in Google Analytics.
Ideally, you should try to have something ready to go live every weekday. According to HubSpot, businesses that publish 16 or more blogs every month generate 3.5 times more traffic than companies that post fewer than five.
If you take a look at our blog, you’ll see we try to stick to a pretty steady posting frequency, with new blogs going up basically every weekday.
It’s no small task putting together a monthly content calendar that consistently produces compelling blog posts, but it’s certainly worth the effort.
What’s better: Short- or long-form content?
That really depends on the topic and subject matter.
If a topic is dense and requires an in-depth discussion to properly cover, long-form content is the way to go. You don’t want every single post on your blog to be that weighty, though. Strike a balance between punchy, shorter blog posts and heftier long-form content that exhaustively answers a question or addresses a particular topic.
A lot of the guides we publish on our blog aim to be fairly comprehensive, and naturally lend themselves to long-form writing. They regularly exceed 2000 words, largely because the extensive research our team conducts into each article helps determine not only an ideal word-length, but the scope of discussion points and relevant blog topics it needs to touch upon to achieve the level of depth we’re looking for.
But that’s only one type of blog post we create.
Our “Content Marketing Weekly” news roundups, for instance, are intended to be pretty breezy, quick reads. Those usually clock in well below 1000 words, a good length for marketers on their lunch breaks.
Keep readability in mind with your page layout
No one wants to read a giant wall of text.
Page layout is very important to keeping your audience engaged and sticking with a blog post from start to finish. Effectively using headers, lists, bullet points, images, videos, embedded social media posts and other design elements breaks up the text and guides readers’ eyes down the page.
On the other hand, committing one of the cardinal sins of blog design is sure to land your blog post in SEO purgatory.
Condense sentences and paragraphs as much as possible to make things easier on your audience. Word choice is important as well. Try to use straightforward language so anyone who lands on your blog will clearly understand your message.
Pagination vs. infinite scrolling
Infinite scrolling gets kind of a bad rap, largely because of the sketchy advertisers out there who tack on an endless parade of links to the end of certain articles. But infinite scrolling is a natural fit for mobile formats where screens are vertically oriented and scrolling downward takes a simple flick of the finger.
There are some concerns regarding usability and engagement, however. Some studies have shown that, when using an infinite scroll-based search system, consumers purchase fewer products from that site.
Pagination can be a better option for traditional B2B websites, assuming your target audience is more likely to read your blog while using a laptop or desktop at work. It’s easier for users to find specific pieces of content and it puts less strain on your site since it doesn’t have to continually load new content on the page. That means faster load times and a better user experience. Not to mention, your blog manager and content strategist will have an easier time tracking engagement metrics from users moving from one blog page to another.
Research your site visitor demographics to learn more about their device preferences and tweak your blog page accordingly.
When will I start seeing some ROI on my blog?
That depends on the kind of ROI you’re tracking. You might see increases in organic search, pages per session and other metrics pretty quickly (although not necessarily), but will that translate into increased sales and revenue?
To get a clearer picture of how well your blog is playing its part, take a look at metrics that more closely align with buyer intent and lead nurturing like demo requests, asset downloads and newsletter subscriptions.
That can take a while to unfold – several months if you’re lucky. Some patience is required to get a good read on how your blog is performing and if your current strategy needs to be tweaked.
But stick with it, even if you don’t immediately see the results you were hoping for. Know your audience and keep on blogging.