The secret of successful company blogging

Paul Boag

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.