Your blog isn’t what you think it is.

It’s not a forum for company press releases. It’s not a soapbox for your CEO’s random thoughts. It’s not where you generate leads.

A blog is simply a portmanteau of “web+log.” It’s a page to record topics of interest relevant to your industry.

As we’ve stated before, blog posts aren’t meant to be the next great American novel. They’re designed to create top-of-funnel traffic. And how do you get traffic?

By taking a stance on important industry conversations. By addressing pain points your readers have. By always putting yourself in the shoes of your audience.

So let’s talk about your actual blog marketing plan.

Where the blog fits into the marketing funnel

There’s really no secret reveal here. A company blog is designed to live at the the top of the funnel, where site visitors are still in the Awareness stage and are simply searching for information.

Their motives aren’t yet clear. Could a high-value buyer currently be reading your blog? Could he or she be comparing your offerings to your competitors’?

At this point in time, and looking at blog performance alone, it’s tough to tell.

As the handy graphic above shows, your blog content should have an educational bent without being salesy or overtly promotional.

The only way to learn more about your visitors and their intent is to move them further down the funnel to the Consideration stage. Here, they may trade their contact information for gated assets like eBooks or white papers.

How blog marketing fuels ALL of your channel campaigns

Although companies often think of blogging as a surface-level, elementary component of marketing, it’s more important than many believe.

That’s because the blog is typically the first digital touchpoint prospects have with your brand; it’s your first impression!

Few people dive directly into a 30-page product brochure or sign up for an hour-long webinar without first reading a blog or two you’ve written. And since the blog is the tip of the inbound marketing spear, you can maximize your content ROI by distributing your work through your online channels.

Email marketing

If you’re sending out emails to your subscribers and prospects, what are you actually providing to them?

Hopefully it’s something of value, like a newsletter, a compilation of top blogs or an opportunity to learn more about your company. Formatting the body of your emails with teaser text from your blogs, clickable CTAs and other forms of media allows you to interact with potential leads in new, off-the-page ways.

And by consistently emailing quality content, you’ll be top of mind whenever the time comes for a prospect to move beyond the Awareness stage and into the Consideration or Decision stage.

Social media marketing

If you’re managing social posts on two, three, seven! channels, you’re not recycling the exact same content with the exact same verbiage, right? Why are your eyes darting?

Social media is the natural extension of the blog marketing lifecycle: 1) Write a blog 2) publish a blog 3) promote a blog.

The key is to share the types of blogs that your specific social audiences will share (or comment on).

That could look something like this:

  • LinkedIn: linking to longer-form blog content and soliciting responses from followers.
  • Twitter: featuring a strong visual, a quote from a blog and a truncated link to the full-length post.
  • Facebook: sharing a more provocative/trending news piece to generate reshares.

Blog content for SEO

Your content strategy is no strategy at all if you’re not creating blog posts specifically for organic search.

Companies that blog regularly have 434 percent more search-indexed pages, meaning your reach is exponentially larger as soon as you begin blogging in a formal way.

More than half of all web traffic (51 percent) comes from organic search, and the only way to capture that organic traffic is to appear in search engine results pages (SERPs). Additionally, 40 percent of marketing revenue is generated by organic search.

All this is to say that search engine optimization is your primary vehicle for getting your blog content in front of viewers.

Without blogs, your search presence is essentially nonexistent, aka you’re taking a hard pass on 40 percent of your total revenue opportunities. Have fun explaining that to your boss.

Other important benefits of blog marketing

Memorable blogs can be a market differentiator, particularly for companies that don’t stand out much from their competitors in terms of products or pricing.

If a small business with a regional focus distributes geotargeted blog content, several things happen:

  • That business appears more prominently in SERPs.
  • That business may be more likely to win high-value local deals.
  • That business has a tangible offering to provide prospects that competitors do not.

Branding

Blogs do not need to be heavily branded, but they do need to consistently align with your overall brand image. Over time, your blog page reflects the brand characteristics you project to the marketplace, which are quality, authority and expertise.

Customer service

Customer experience is everything, and that includes time spent on your site.

But think of how many phone calls you receive and the types of reviews customers leave online. Wouldn’t it be great to answer questions via a how-to blog post or even an FAQ-style resource? Not only will these pages perform well in search, but also they allow you to serve your customers valuable information without having to pick up the phone or respond to an email.

The information is already there on your site. And it’s evergreen.

Sales enablement

Business owners care about one thing, and that’s the number of deals that are coming in.

Blog marketing is a key tactic for sales enablement, insofar as it provides sales reps with easy-to-use collateral to distribute on a whim or to refer back to at all times. At each stage of the buying process, prospects require some form of nurturing via content, a process that begins with blogs.

Harvard Business Review found that 60 percent of purchasing decisions occur before buyer and seller ever communicate verbally. That means your blogs should be doing some of the heavy lifting in communicating your industry authority to speed along the sales process; if you’re not blogging, your competitors are out there shaping the opinions of buyers while you sit on the sidelines.

Tracking blog performance and setting goals

All of your marketing campaigns should be rooted in data. So to blog successfully, you’ll need a solid understanding of what to write and how to know it’s working.

To know which topics to blog on:

  • Assess the keywords you’re currently ranking for in Google Analytics.
  • Use a competitive analysis tool like SEMrush to see where content opportunities lie and which keywords you need to be optimizing for.
  • Determine organic Keyword Difficulty (most businesses should aim for difficulty scores of less than 50 – more on that here) of relevant search terms and write content that is more comprehensive than anything else currently ranking for that term in search. MarketMuse, BrightEdge and other content platforms can help you flesh out subtopics, semantic keywords and word counts.

Metrics to track include:

  • Search Position.
  • Organic Traffic.
  • Click-through Rates.
  • Social Shares.
  • Backlinks.
  • Pages per Session.
  • New Users.
  • Unique Pageviews.

Concrete goals to achieve:

  • Increase in traffic.
  • Increase in email subscriptions (or other Goal Completion, like newsletter signup or navigation to Contact Us page).
  • Increase in guest-posting opportunities.
  • Increase in # of ranking keywords.
  • Increase in domain visibility.
  • Increase in dwell time.

Your blog marketing strategy should be codified so that all stakeholders know when content is scheduled to go live. But it should also be nimble enough so that you can adjust your plan as time goes on; your blog competitors aren’t static, so your blog direction shouldn’t be either.

If there’s a new idea that’s making waves in your industry, write about it. If your sales team needs material to send to prospects, write that, too. As long as you remain on brand and moving toward your larger commercial goals, you’re doing it right.

And if you need more info about blogs, we’ve got plenty.

Mike O'Neill is a writer, editor and content manager in Chicago. When he's not keeping a close eye on Brafton's editorial content, he's auditioning to narrate the next Ken Burns documentary. All buzzwords are his own.