The secret of successful company blogging

Increasingly organisations are publishing a blog. They are perceived as a powerful marketing tool and a great way to engage with customers. However, the majority fail for one simple reason…

Before I reveal the reason why the majority of blogs fail and what makes the select few succeed, I want to explain why I believe institutional blogs are so important.

Why your organisation should blog

An organisational blog has huge potential. Just some of the benefits include:

  • Search engine visibility – Blogs are keyword heavy. This can be a good way to improve your search engine ranking. A well written, useful post will naturally attract users and be placed highly on search engines. Regular posting also encourages search engines to spider your site more often, which means your content is listed faster.
  • Increased links – If your blog posts are interesting and relevant, people are more likely to link to them. For example, another website owner is unlikely to link to a product page for a vitamin supplement. However they may link to a post talking about the benefits of vitamin supplements to health. Third party links not only drive traffic, they also improve search engine ranking.
  • Reaching new audiences – You can also take blog posts and syndicate them. In other words you can allow other website owners to republish the content in return for a link back to your own blog. This is a superb way of reaching users who would never normally visit your website.
  • Generating repeat traffic – If you are blogging regularly and allow users to subscribe either by email or RSS, it can be a great way of keeping users coming back. This keeps your brand in their minds and will increase the likelihood of them completing your calls to action.
  • Gaining customer feedback – Blogs are not just a broadcast tool. They are also an excellent way of gathering user feedback through commenting. You can use this to improve your website and offering.

Google Analytics showing new verses returning users

So if corporate blogs are so effective, why do so many fail? The answer is unbelievably simple.

Why do corporate blogs fail?

Corporate blogs mainly fail for a single reason… the organisations stop posting. It is that simple.

Dead end sign

The question now becomes, “why do they stop posting?” The answer to this is equally simple – blogging is hard work.

Many corporate bloggers start off enthusiastically in the hopes of instant returns. However, as I say in “The 10 Harsh Truths of Corporate Blogging“…

Building a readership is a long term commitment. It can take months for users to recognise your blog as a consistent source of useful information. Only then will they start visiting it regularly and recommending it to others.

It doesn’t just take time, it also takes commitment. That means posting regularly and to a schedule. Users are more likely to visit your blog if they know you release a post on a certain day each week.

The biggest problem however is not the long term commitment or time, it’s consistently coming up with content.

Most blogger start off well but when they do not get support from others with their organisation they begin to falter. They simply do not know enough about their organisation to blog without contributions from others. The problem is that everybody else is too busy with their own responsibilities to write for the blog.

The result is that either the blog dies completely or becomes a graveyard for press releases that nobody cares about.

How then do you keep coming up with content to feed your corporate blog over the long term?

How to keep feeding the animal

Cookie Monster

Believe it or not, if you have the right mindset it isn’t difficult to come up with ideas for posts on a regular basis. It is simply a matter of remembering three principles:

Not all posts need to be long

There is no statutory length on blog posts. In fact it could be argued that longer posts such as this one are less effective because they require greater commitment from the reader.

Do not be afraid to write shorter posts. In fact one of the most successful blogs in the tech sector (Daring Fireball) often consists of only a couple of paragraphs.

If you are busy, write a shorter post. If you have time, write something more in-depth. It is better to write shorter posts more consistently than sporadically writing longer ones.

Keep a list of post ideas

In my post “5 Lists Every Website Owner Should Keep” I wrote…

Blog ideas occur to me all the time. When I am reading a book, watching TV or even in the shower. Rarely am I able to sit down and write a post there and then. That is why I keep a list of blog ideas. I know by the time I come to write something, all of those great ideas will have been forgotten.

By keeping a list of post ideas you avoid panic when the deadline for posting looms. When faced with an empty post your mind often goes blank. Having an existing list of ideas avoids this.

Vary the type of post

Finally, remember that there are lots of different types of blog posts. It is easy to get stuck into one type of blogging and that can seriously limit potential subject matter. Below are just some of the types of blog posts I regularly write…

  • Questions – Asking your audience a question is a great way to encourage engagement. It also significantly reduces your workload because it is the commenters who write the post! You can even write a followup post that highlight the best responses you received.
  • Interviews – Although it can often be hard to encourage others within your organisation to blog, it is easier to get them to agree to an interview. You can either interview them about their area of expertise or do a profile piece on them as an individual. There is also no reason you cannot interview experts from outside your own organisation too. Finally, if you are pushed for time why not record the interview as audio or video? This will save a lot of time writing up your post and also helps to vary the users experience.
  • Case studies – A blog is also an excellent place to post case studies of work your organisation has done. However, be careful to ensure these are not self congratulatory. The emphasis of such posts should be on identifying problems that the reader can associate with and demonstrating how they can be overcome through an example. The focus should always be on the reader and not on your organisation.
  • Multimedia Posts – I have already mentioned how video and audio can be used for interviews. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Audio and video combined with photography can be a great way of communicating information, whether it is giving a tour of your facilities or a way of capturing an event you are running.
  • Events – If you do run events these are excellent sources of blog material. Whether you are running conferences, workshops or supplier days there is always something to blog about. If you have speakers, try recording their talks as this makes excellent blog material.
  • Commentary – Another source of inspiration and a way to produce a post quickly, is to respond to what others have written on the web. These commentary pieces tend to short and yet users like them because it highlights other online content they maybe interested in.
  • News – Typically corporate news tends to be inward looking, focusing on news from within the company. As with case studies this can be very self congratulatory and so should be limited. However, you can also post sector specific news that would be of interest to your readers. It is also an excellent way of encouraging repeat traffic because you become seen as the definitive news sources for developments in your sector.
  • Reviews – One easy source of ideas is to review the work of others. Posting reviews of books, software or services is useful to users and often attracts the interest of those being reviewed. It can be a great way of making new contacts and spreading the reputation of your organisation.
  • Hints and tips – Short pieces of advice are great filler posts and easily digestible by readers. They also establish your organisation as an expert with advice to share. This increasing your credibility.
  • Tutorials – Tutorials guide the user through a series of steps to complete a specific goal. Although tutorials have traditionally been used for learning software, they can also be used to help reader complete real world tasks like build a wall or replace a tire. Tutorials often combine imagery and text, although video is becoming increasingly popular. Whatever their form, tutorials always seem popular with users.
  • Lists – Users also enjoy top 10 lists. For example ’10 ways to improve your blogging.’ The main reason for this popularity is that they are easy to digest. A user can glance at the headlines without reading the post in detail. As a blogger, lists are easy to write because they have no complex structure and points do not need to lead from one to another.
  • Resources – Posts that highlight useful resources is both popular and easy to write. You can highlight interesting articles on your own blog as well as elsewhere on the web. You can also point out books, white papers or other types of resources which maybe of interest.
  • Predictions – People are always interested in what the future holds for their sector. Predication post are therefore always popular especially around new year. Although there are risks associated with getting it wrong, these posts do make your organisation appear visionary and progressive in its thinking.
  • Debates – Every sector has issues that divide opinion. Although your organisation should expresses its opinion on its blog, it can also provide an opportunity to put forward different viewpoints. Debate posts will take an issue and outline the various points of view. It then opens the discussion to readers who post in the comments. These types of posts always attract a lot of interest and responses.

The secret of successful company blogging

So the secret of successful company blogging is simple. Don’t give up when you run out of ideas. Instead try changing your approach to blogging and don’t be afraid to keep your posts short (unlike this one!).

Finally, avoid the situation entirely by keeping a list of blog ideas that you can call upon when inspiration run dries.

Ultimately successful corporate blogging is about perseverance.

  • really, man?

    You lost me when you used “your” instead of “you’re”.

  • Alex Subrizi

    At my company, where my role extends to corporate communications, we’ve been discussing the purpose and importance of our blog for some time. Yes it’s hard, as you point out, to get employees to contribute regularly, and over a five-year period we’re averaging only about 10 posts per year. More significantly, none of those posts has ever generated a relevant, serious comment (there are always spammers that always insert a URL after some bland bit of praise).

    So the question we are asking ourselves as we try to revitalize our blog is whether the lack of comments equates to a (near) total lack of interest in our blog, and whether this might be addressed by more frequent posting or more high quality posts. Having to choose between these last two, which ranks higher in your view?

    And yes, I agree that you could fix that “your > you’re” typo. It’s the first word of your fourth point. Having your ideas thrown out by a reader because of a spelling or punctuation mistake is short-sighted, I agree. But forgoing the chance to correct an error once it’s pointed out is odd. For those with an eye for such things, errors interrupt the flow of discourse: call it a harsh truth about written communication. Proofreaders have jobs for this reason. You didn’t “lose me”, I kept reading, and enjoyed and shared your post. But I find it strange that, once the error is pointed out, it remain uncorrected.

  • C.I.Agent Solutions┬«

    This is a great post full of useful information! I was recently tasked with starting a blog for my small company, as part of a newly implemented social media strategy. We offer secondary containment solutions for the utility industry, so consistently coming up with creative content for interesting posts catered to such a niche audience poses quite a challenge for me. Even more disheartening is the majority of our target market don’t find blogs to be a valuable content type, according to a recent survey by CFE Media and TREW Marketing.

    Despite these obstacles, I’m determined to keep at it in 2015, and your pointers will help me in this process. I do disagree with you on point 3. Of the blogs I follow and read regularly, I prefer ones with teaser menus. We’re rolling out a new website design in a few weeks, and my designer recently asked me how I wanted our blog laid out. I know you’re a designer, too, so I thought I’d ask you why you advise against the “teaser feeds.” We host our blog on our site, so a large feed of full articles (and the scrolling involved) would feel cluttered and disorganized, at least in my opinion. I looked at the 37Signals blog you referred to, and while I was extremely impressed with the quality and variety of posts it offers, I found the overall blog format too “text-heavy” for my liking (though they did a very good job of effectively breaking up the text with images, etc.).

    Thanks again for the post – I have bookmarked this article and will probably refer to it often through this corporate blogging journey. Hope you have a Happy New Year!

    • I think what Paul is saying about the teaser feeds applies for when people subscribe via RSS and get an email saying a new blog post has been published. He is advocating for blogs to provide the whole content within the RSS feed, so people don’t have to click through to the blog post hosted on the original website.

      (Having said that, I arrived here thanks to an email from Linkedin that told me Paul had shared a link via Linkedin. The Linkedin post was just a teaser!).

      I think you’re right to go for “teaser feeds” on your blog design – a simple headline, excerpt and a strong image should do it.

  • Hi Paul a company should have a blog. Beside that blog update people everyday, anywhere anytime. Blog have contributions on the social media.

  • Nicole

    If you think I’m one of the high-strung weirdos who gasped when you used “Your” instead of “You’re”– then you, sir, are totally correct.

  • I have a blog and i think that 50% success depend on planning. So it’s important to need know how to blog post properly and effectively. Thanks Paul for you kind and helpful tutorial. I apply your advice in my professional life.

  • Thanks for sharing…!

    Honestly, I’m using Excel to plan my content. However, I love the editorial calendar, and thanks for sharing, by the way. I’m impressed. When talk about the image, the most of bloggers are using Google images, specially newbies. My Adsense account used to get banned because using of Google free image. We should find great sources to get the right images, and be sure no copyright material.

  • i have a blog site…. thanks for tips …i am apply your tips.