Like most marketing disciplines, launching and maintaining a blog is an act of balancing different needs with limited personal resources: your time and your brain-power! Do you spend your energy on writing content, improving design and usability of your blog platform or work on SEO and search engine needs? The answer as it usually is in marketing is: all of the above! But it really depends on where you are in the blogging life-cycle.
Over the past 8 years, I’ve probably written over 1,200 posts for my blog, my work blog and online communities. So as you can guess, I’m all about content. Without engaging, well-written and informative content, it will be hard to earn an audience. But the reality is that your focus as a blogger and marketer, will depend on where you are in the blog life-cycle!
For example, when you’re launching a blog, you have to initially focus on design and usability. The goals range from choosing the proper platform (WordPress, Squarespace, WIX, Tumblr, etc) to choosing a template. And the best way to choose a template and look and feel for your blog is to go check out other blogs! Visualize and imagine the type and variety of content you would like to produce and how you would like it presented. Because in my experience, once you’ve chosen a template, it’s never quite that easy to move to different templates, something always breaks. And changing platforms? Ouch, that’s a huge undertaking even with decent migration tools.
Now that you’ve got your platform and template, you’ll need to pick through the options for color palettes, fonts, text sizes, menus and more. You’re tuning your blog and brand presence to make it engaging and intuitively user-friendly. Think about a new reader hitting your blog, what’s the first impression they get on visit #1? And how do you encourage them to poke around and learn more about your content? It’s all about creating an engaging online brand presence that will clearly define your expertise in your chosen topic area. The goal is to give your reader an immediate understanding of your expertise and reassurance that you truly can help them learn more about that topic
Ok, you’ve got your platform, template and you’ve established a brand presence, now you need to start organizing and/or creating content. Whether you’re talking graphic images, logos, blog posts, quotes and more, you’ve got to start producing! Keep your content topics and themes pretty narrow to begin with as you start to establish your blog voice. Create a list of potential topics to write about and to get the wheels going, start drafting some pieces. You’ll find that your writing and blogging only gets better with time and practice. Hopefully you’ll eventually get into a writing rhythm and have lots of good content drafts with supporting quality graphics and images to show your expertise to your audience. And keep them coming back!
The next step after you’ve created a great online brand presence and started to create your content stream is to bring in organic search traffic. Most likely, a substantial portion (over 50% of your blog traffic) will come in from Google, Bing and Yahoo for users looking to learn more about your topic. The obvious goal is to rank on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) to maximize visibility and click-through traffic.
You can create clickability by writing a pithy and catchy SEO title and description for your posts with use of engaging key words. This SEO specific meta-data is often written separately from what your reader will see ON the blog. You can also add micro-data/rich-snippets that will make your post stand out further with author information, a rating and much more. Search engines are focused on delivering the highest quality content and articles to their users. So your goal is to attract new followers and offer that helpful content once they click through. Ideally they are also sharing your content out to their friends and colleagues. Search engines are increasingly looking for social signals that your content is valuable! Social sharing, time on page, lower bounce rates and overall website traffic will help your posts rise up on SERP.
As you can see, there is a lot of work beyond just creating content and posting. While your core responsibility is to put out great content for your readers, better design and usability will engage readers more effectively and help them get value from your content. Tweaking your content for SEO means it will become more visible on search engines and once you deliver a great content experience, you will increase the visibility of your posts.
And that’s how you create a virtuous marketing cycle! Use SEO to maximize the visibility of your blog and content online, design a blog and website that’s easy and engaging to use, and then create great content that educates and assists readers. Ideally you’ll create a loyal readership that will help spread word about your website through social media and sharing which will improve your search engine rankings to bring in new readers.
And that’s not the end of it. Once your website is launched, you need to continually refine all of the three elements above when time and need dictate. Question and challenge yourself. Are you keeping things interesting for your reader? Are my graphic images engaging enough? Is my writing fresh or is it getting stale? Can I improve the menus and organization of my posts and information for readers? Can I maintain or increase the visibility of my posts on search engines when they change rules and algorithms on their side? The best way to improve your online presence is to see what other bloggers and content creators are doing online, there’s always room to improve!
I can tell you first-hand that creating great blog content and keeping your readers engaged is a never-ending commitment. And it’s a fun ride to deliver great and useful information to your audience on a regular basis. But in these days of online and digital marketing, the skills to engage your audience and influence them is a huge challenge but extremely rewarding. Respect your audience, write high quality content for them, make sure it ranks high on search and I’m sure you’ll do great with a loyal readership!