January 16, 2014: Blogging has emerged and remains a critical component of B2B content marketing strategies across all industries. Blogging is an effective way for B2B brands to interact with peers, colleagues, or prospects on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, driving leads and generating brand awareness.
While I could ramble on about the importance of blogging within the B2B marketing mix, take a look at these statistics that put its adoption and effectiveness into perspective.
- 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing (source)
- 82% of B2B Marketers are increasing content production in the next 12 months (source)
- B2B companies who actively blog receive 67% more leads than those that do not (source)
- Blogs give websites 434% more indexed pages (source)
While these statistics are hard to argue, there unfortunately are not any set “rules” to establishing a successful B2B blogging strategy. In a recent team training session, we attempted to set our own guidelines, identifying several best practices B2B bloggers should follow from idea creation all the way through to promotion. Here is a look at the recap:
Blog Post Headlines and Titles
According to WordPress statistics, bloggers produce an average of 33.7 million new posts each month and that’s just on WordPress! Standing out from the sea of blog posts being read and shared across the web can be extremely challenging, and it all starts with the headline (or title) of your post. Here are our recommendations for creating effective headlines and titles:
- Make it eye catching: Do whatever it takes (within reason) to come up with a title that will catch the reader’s eye. Upworthy has seen click rates go through the roof when using a formula comprised of “outrage, uplift, and mystery.” While going overboard isn’t necessary (and could have negative effects), make sure to do something unique with the headline to generate more clicks.
- Identify and write for the audience with promotion in mind: Before writing effective blog posts, the ideal target audience must be clearly defined. Creating buyer personas is an essential step in this process, helping to uncover information beyond demographics, including role in organization, keyword opportunities, and third party influences. Once the target has been set, keep promotional strategies in mind when developing headlines and titles. A few questions to ask yourself: How can I catch their attention? Where will they see this post? What will they be looking for?
- Provide a benefit: One of our previous industry news articles reveals 72% of B2B buyers begin the buying process with a Google search. This gives B2B bloggers an excellent opportunity to create a headline that helps answer a question or provide a solution to this large percentage of B2B buyers looking for answers.
- Keep it short; don’t force keywords: While blogging provides an excellent opportunity for B2B SEO teams to focus content around a keyword, it’s important not to force the issue. Google notes the best titles are clear and concise. If the entire piece of content doesn’t directly relate to your keyword, don’t force it. Having the keyword appear in the body a few times will suffice. Also, keep in mind the best titles (for SEO and readability purposes) are 70 characters or less.
- Hit on hot topics when possible: Stacy recently wrote a blog post tying the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics (hot topic) to B2B content marketing. While this not only gives a unique angle to readers, it could also catch the attention of those who may be searching for Olympics-related posts, opening the door to an audience outside the B2B realm.
Blog Post Optimization
After the reader has been intrigued by a well-created headline or title, the next step is making sure they stay on the page and read through to the end of the post. We identified several best practices we found to be effective ways to keep readers on the page and interested in posts all the way through to the end.
- Make it digestible: It’s no secret that attention spans have taken a significant hit in recent time. With that thought in mind, remember to break up large blocks of text (chunk) to make the material more digestible to the audience. One way this can easily be done is by inserting sub-headings to break up paragraphs into sections (or thoughts) of their own. Other ways to keep readers intrigued is to use bold text for interesting stats or content and numbered lists or bullets for a series of thoughts. Finally, don’t forget to eliminate unnecessary verbiage!
- Use images: Pictures do a great job of making a blog post more appealing to the naked eye and also give readers a break from heavy text. Aside from reader-friendliness, bloggers effectively using images in posts will actually see more traffic to their posts. In fact, in a recent article from Jeff Bullas, he shows how pieces of content with images actually get 94% more total views than those that don’t.
- Reference sources: No you’re not doing this just to acquire links and boost SEO. A well constructed post not only includes references that support and validate perspective but also extends the reader’s opportunity to learn and gain more information on a topic.
- Include a call to action: Blogs can act as a unique lead generation vehicle. Be sure to make it clear to the reader what you want them to know (or do) after reading the post. These calls to action can ask the reader to complete a contact request form or simply invite them to engage further with the brand (see below).
- Integrate sharing within the body: As we mentioned above, it’s important to make key stats or quotes “pop” by using bold text or lists. With social promotion in mind, making these key bits of information share-friendly is important. One way to do this is to include easy ways to share, using tools like ClicktoTweet to allow readers to share a piece of text with the click of the mouse.
Blog Post Promotion
The last (and possibly the most important) step in the blogging process is promoting your content to readers across the web. While promotion through social media isn’t a secret tactic (87% of B2B marketers use social media to distribute content), we took the time to discuss some key ingredients to successful sharing using social media and a few other outlets.
- Inform through social mentions: Social media has provided bloggers with an opportunity to get the attention of individuals or companies they may be targeting. For example, if you’re referencing an individual, link to their Twitter profile and let them know they were included in your post. We recently did a spotlight on B2B companies with excellent B2B Facebook pages. We included links to their pages, and then reached out through social media channels to tell them their page was included on our list. The results were fantastic, as we saw Tweets from a number of the companies on our list referencing our post.
- Utilize Email: While social may be the first thought that comes to mind when thinking about modern blog post promotion, don’t forget about email. Simply sending out an email to colleagues within your organization to share a post or emailing external audiences / including the post in newsletters can be a quick and effective way to share.
- Leverage Communities: Several large social networking sites host communities or groups, where users can share thoughts or communicate with others interested in a shared interest. LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities are two great places to share and promote content. IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to immerse yourself into these communities prior to self-promotion. Comment, share, plus, etc. to become familiar with the group and its members.
- Go beyond your site: Guest posting and syndication sites (ex: Business2Community) provide excellent, free promotional channels for content. Making your post visible to the largest audience possible should be the end goal and through guest posting and syndication sites, your blog will surely reach a larger audience.
When developing a B2B blogging strategy, don’t forget to use all the tactics and tools available to catch the reader’s eye, maintain their attention, and influence sharing. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we hope it provided some insight into the world of B2B blogging as we see it!