If you are a self-employed professional who is marketing your business online, you may be faced with a few dilemmas: how do you balance the ever increasing demands of Internet marketing without taking too much time away from your business? Where should you focus the time that you do have? How do you make your message stand out among your intended audience? And how do you ensure that your content and its message converts to engaged fans and paying customers?
Many business bloggers try to market their products and services online without a clear plan of action. They just jump right in and try a bit of everything. It’s what I call the smorgasbord approach to online marketing. Often, these professionals end up burning themselves out, get frustrated with the process, and lament all the wasted time and money they invested.
Then there are those who remain on the sidelines. They are paralyzed and confused by all the complexity, and when it comes to marketing their products and services online, they make a half-hearted attempt at best.
What follows is a plan for promoting a business blog or any other business-related content that can easily be superimposed onto many kinds of business setups. You can tweak it to fit different industries and other things like your unique skill set and your available resources. You’re going to need to do some initial leg work to get this going, but once it’s up and running, the process should go pretty smoothly.
But before we get started, just a couple quick points…
Throughout this guide, I’m going to point you to some really good articles and other free resources from around the web. They are not here for show. Check them out!
Also, keep in mind that these ten points form a loop that builds on itself. The reality of Internet marketing and of running a business is that things change quickly, and when that change happens, you need to make sure you have some process in place to re-evaluate and re-focus your resources. This means you should make it a point to start all the way from the beginning several times each year.
Ten Steps to Becoming a Business Blogging Superstar
Step #1: Start With Your Customer
Do you know who your ideal customer is? Before you answer, head on over to Firepole Marketing and read this post on customer profiles (you should download the free pdf as well). Go ahead; I’ll wait for you…
Successful business blogging starts here. Forget about keyword research, SEO, social media, or creating killer content. If you are not laser targeted on The Person you are trying to reach with your content, then you are going wind up wasting a lot of time. The more real and defined your customer profile is, the easier it will be to know what to write about as well as where and how to promote your content for quality exposure and engagement.
Step #2: Set Your Internet Marketing Goals
This sounds like a pretty general point, but it’s not, and many business owners trying figure out content marketing get this wrong. You really need to have two sets of goals in mind as you develop your online marketing plan: your general business blogging goals as well as strategy-specific goals.
Your main blogging objectives might look something like, “to gain more clients,” or “to build awareness and interest in a new product or service.” You have to be crystal clear about where your blogging and content marketing fits into the bigger picture of your business. This means you are certain about how your Internet marketing goals are helping you to achieve your business’ mission and purpose.
With this in mind, you should also be setting smaller, more detailed goals along the way that will be attached to specific strategies and actions with measurable results. An example of this would be writing a guest post, designing a slide presentation, or creating a video in order to direct readers to a well-crafted landing page with an opt-in form.
Step #3: Deciding What to Write About
When it comes to deciding what topics to write about, there are a few points to keep in mind:
- You want content that is going to be interesting to your target audience.
- The content has to be useful or insightful enough that readers will want to bookmark it, share it, comment on it, and link to it.
- To have the best chance of standing out on social media and actually getting visitors to your site, your headlines have to be as strong as your content. If you need a little help in this area check out these two free reports (opt-in required). The first is Headline Hacks from Jon Morrow of Copyblogger, and the second is Peter Sandeen’s 101 Headline Formulas.
- You shouldn’t ignore SEO when creating your content.
- You should also give some thought to the kinds of calls of action (CTAs) you are making both within and around the content. How likely is it that a reader of a particular post topic will follow through on that CTA?
- If you find a topic or blog post structure that converts or draws significant user engagement, then do more of it.
Before you get to this, you should try to focus your content around three to five main topics. These are the topics and categories you want your business to be known for and that you want to place well for in search. But, don’t just pick topics off the top of your head. You should spend some time researching this and have some process in place for identifying topic opportunities. Here are a few articles to get this process going:
- A Practical Guide To Finding Great SEO Keywords Using Google AdWords
- 3 Free SEO Tools for Identifying Target Keywords
- 8 Super Easy Ways to Ensure That You Always Have Profitable Blog Post Ideas
- The Marketer’s Guide to Blogging
- The Advanced Guide to SEO; Chapter 6
Step#4: Promoting Your Content Via Social Media
Really, this step should be it’s own post. But, I’m going to condense it as much as I can and direct you to some incredibly useful resources.
Social media is a vast sea where the currents are constantly changing, and your message can easily be drowned out in all the noise.
But you need to realize that you can’t leave social media out of the equation. SEO is fast becoming SMO (Social Media Optimization). If no one is sharing and engaging with you and your content, then no one is going to be able to find you and your content. Period.
Don’t let it scare you away, though. Content marketing via social media does not have to be overwhelming.
If you’re dealing with limited time, here’s what you need to do. Make a spreadsheet with three columns. If you’ve gone through the steps above, and you have your customer profile down pat, then in the first column make a list of the social media platforms and other online communities where your ideal visitor spends the most time online, that is, those places where you will have the easiest time reaching this person. Leave the middle column empty for now. Then, in the third column, write down any remaining major social media platforms that you can think of.
That first column represents those networks where you are going to focus the majority of your time. This is where you should actively work to engage your audience, build up a conversation around the content you are producing, and make connections. This is also where you will make the most effort converting visitors and followers into leads and sales. Pick anywhere from 1 to 3 of these networks, and move the rest over to the middle column.
Any networks in that second column should involve minimal engagement and activity- anywhere from half an hour a week to half an hour a month depending on your situation. Those in the third column, however, should have a complete and optimized profile, but can be automatically updated via RSS, or you can hire a freelancer for a few dollars a month to make manual updates.
Realize that the vast majority of your social media activity can (and should) be automated. You’ll need to do this just to get your foot in the door. Luckily, this is pretty easy to achieve with the help of tools such as Twitterfeed (RSS feeds to social networks) and Hootsuite (a full featured social media dashboard) and many others.
Just a side note: Google+ is an exception to any other social network out there, and if it’s not in your first column, then it needs to at least be in that second one (for now). If you want the best resource for learning how to master Google+, then check out Chris Lang’s system for using Google+ to grow your business (I’m not an affiliate, but I am a fan).
And just so you know, if your peers and customers aren’t so active with Google+, with a little elbow grease you can actually pull them over with your very own Google+ community. One example of someone who did this is Ryan Hanley. In a few short months, his Insurance Inbound Marketing group has grown to over 200 targeted and engaged members. Not too shabby!
Last, but certainly not least, for a rundown of some great social media optimization tips (and some others as well), head over to Traffic Generation Cafe. Ana Hoffman does a really good job detailing how to promote your blog post with social media. This is a very well researched and thought out post. Read it!
Step #5 Getting Involved in Content Curation
The Internet is being flooded with content from second to second, and being able to keep up with countless RSS Feeds, Tweets, Google+ updates and Facebook shares heading your way is practically impossible. Enter content curation. Content curation has been gaining in popularity especially over the past couple of years as a way to sift out the best content and then share it with your followers across other networks. Not only will strategic content curation help to establish your authority on a particular subject and help to give you fresh blog post ideas, but it will also help you to build relationships with other influencers in your niche (more on that below) and draw attention to you and your own content.
For some tips on how to successfully curate content, take a look at these posts:
- Social Media Curation Guide
- Content Curation: The Ultimate Guide
- Use Content Curation to Drive More Traffic
- 7 Easy Ways to Curate Content and Drive Traffic (for content curation on your own blog)
Step #6 Strategic Commenting on Other Blogs
Knowing how to properly comment on other people’s content is an art, and if you are pressed for time, then you will have a lot to gain by honing your skills in this area. Keep in mind that you may have a few goals over here:
- Gaining exposure. Consistently putting your avatar next to a quality comment will help to build brand awareness.
- Building relationships with the post author as well as the readers
- Generating traffic and interest in your company or blog.
- Expanding your online footprint. Consistent commenting with links back to your site (or +1’s and likes) shows you are a real person, and that will ultimately help to make you look like an authority in your niche and may even help your site’s ranking in search.
In order for you to actualize these goals, however, you need to be strategic with your commenting. So, I’m going to bring a few “commenting hacks” below, but keep in mind just about everyone and his grandmother and his three-year-old daughter know these same tips. You’ll have the list; use them when and where you can.
But, if you want to know the BIGGEST commenting hack there is, it’s this: be real. Leave a comment that not only adds to the conversation, but that shows there’s a real person behind it and shows that you truly value both the content as well as those you are addressing. This will make much more of an impression. I’ve seen some really “great” comments that were as lifeless as a dead frog.
Beyond this you need to have a real understanding of your target audience as well as the site on which you are leaving the comment:
- Leave useful comments on CommentLuv enabled posts closely related to the topic of your post
- If you know the blog’s posting schedule, you can try to be one of the first to comment.
- If there are numerous comments already on a post, then scan the comments and see where you can enter into the conversation by replying to another commenter or jumping in on a thread that’s already been started. Embedded discussions stand out more- especially if you are going going back and forth with the blog owner. If you can, make multiple comments at various points along the comment list.
- Keep in mind that the best place to put these threaded comments are at the top or the very bottom. But again I wouldn’t force it (because it becomes pretty obvious what you are trying to do).
- When you want to start your own thread or to join one already in progress, call people out by name.
Step #7 Using Different Mediums
Once you’ve hit the publish button on a blog post, and you’ve promoted it across various social media channels, don’t walk away just yet. By simply putting the same content in a different format- say a video, slide presentation, or pdf- you can gain even more traffic and exposure with only a little additional effort. It’s a well-know tactic that online marketers have been doing for a few years now to increase backlinks and bring in targeted visitors to their sites and landing pages.
For starters, consider this great traffic hack from Ana Hoffman: convert your blog post to a pdf file and upload it to document sharing sites such as SlideShare and Scribd. You could also choose a an eye-catching photo and upload it onto Pinterest or record an optimized five minute Youtube video where you explain or illustrate some point made within the post. If you have a bit more time and are creative, you could turn the post into a PowerPoint presentation and learn how to properly optimize it on SlideShare. Finally, you can turn your old content into an ebook which you can use to get email subscribers or even sell.
Step #8 Networking with Other Bloggers
One of the quickest ways to expand your reach and build an authoritative brand at the same time is to connect with other influential bloggers and online influencers. Not only will such alliances allow you to tap into their traffic and social media influence, but it will help to establish you as an authority by association.
There are several ways you can go about doing this. Here is a brief rundown of your options:
- Write guest posts on authority blogs and add a link to a well-written landing page or an exceptional piece of content that you’ve created in your author bio. Much has been written about the art and changing trends of guest posting. For more information, check out the two resources below:
1. The Guest Blogging Survival Guide- free download by Kristi Hines
- Be active on Triberr. The key to success on Triberr is being a part of targeted tribes with active participants and a strong reach. If you are just starting out then pick a few tribes in your general niche. Make it a point to actively share other people’s content at least three times a week and comment on their posts. If you are consistent, then you’ll have a decent chance of getting accepted into the tribe.
- Form a blogging alliance with other bloggers in your general niche. Even if your peers aren’t so influential by themselves, as a group you can share each other’s content, make comments on each other’s blogs, make recommendations, and guest post for each other. It’s like an informal Triberr.
- If you want to get the attention of a popular blogger, then work to send traffic and/or sales that person’s way. You could do this by linking to the blogger’s content, sharing posts and updates and making an effort to get some retweets, likes or +1’s by others on whatever you’ve shared. Depending on how busy or otherwise available the blog owner is, you are bound to get noticed after a while.
Step #9 Asking Your Readers to Share
Sometimes all you really have to do is ask. Send an email to your subscribers asking them to share your recent post or video, and put sharing requests in and around your content. Which brings me to…
Step #10 Measuring and Analyzing the Results
Finally, don’t forget to set up some methods to measure your results. The metrics you will want to track are going to be based on the goals you defined at the very beginning of this process. This means you will be looking at things like activity around contextual calls to action, social media engagement, and traffic analytics.
There are many ways to get this information; it really depends on what you’re tracking and where. For example, here’s a great post that shows you how to use Google Analytics to measure your landing page performance and here’s a post by Ileane Smith on three ways to track video traffic.
Just make sure that you are setting aside a little time each week to keep tabs on the metrics that matter. Doing so will not only help you to track your performance, but it will expose you to rising trends and new opportunities to create content gold in the future.
I know all the steps mentioned above may seem like a lot of work, and the truth is that you are going to have to invest some time and maybe even money to get the best setup for you and your business. But, the biggest take away from all of this is that to be successful as a business blogger, you need to have a process in place. If you follow the ten steps in this guide and you do the work
Image courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net