For those in the public relations industry, success starts with visibility. This is true for the earned media we generate, the thought leadership content we produce for clients and for our own blog content. Any company blogging today must have a strategy for boosting the visibility of their content and ensuring it is shareable and shared. Here’s what we recommend to maximize the impact of your posts.
It’s particularly important to stick to industry topics and issues when writing for a B2B audience. Think of your posts as potential bylined or op-ed pieces for your most influential industry trade publications. In fact, most vertical trades will run guest pieces, and a pickup of your blog post results in the kind of multiplier effect anyone blogging for business should seek. Today’s PR teams encourage clients to blog about relevant topics for their audience and pitch these writings to trade pub and other editors. A successful outcome? A post like this one by an executive with PandaDoc, a provider of all-in-one software for proposals, contracts and other sales collateral, was published in top digital marketing trade CMS Wire. Once a post is published, look to see that the post is well-received, triggers website visits and editors who come back for more content.
Most successful bloggers create an editorial calendar that includes ideas for hot industry topics that appeal to readers. They plan for posts for predictable “red-letter dates,” holidays and other seasonal periods and also leave room to blog about topical news when the need arises. We’ve done this, too; in fact some of our most popular posts are inspired by a breaking news situation or industry issue. For a PR blog like ours, it might be a new wrinkle in the ongoing conversation about the dearth of women in PR agency management, or a sudden brand crisis like the bad press Uber has received of late. But even for topical posts, we try hard to dispense “evergreen” advice and tips that will be searchable long after the breaking news hook has died down. It may seem boring, and it requires ingenuity to turn out quality posts over the long term, but so-called “pillar articles” that vary with fresh examples or news hooks over time, are probably more helpful to your blog visibility than content that is “ripped from the headlines.”
To increase potential PR exposure for your blog post, it’s crucial to analyze and determine the key words and phrases that will work hardest for you when people are online searching a particular topic. For a primer on keyword selection for SEO, have a look at this article. Once you have decided on the top keywords or keyword phrases for your company, it’s important to employ them judiciously. Some rules of thumb include making sure the title of your post contains your key word or words as well as within the post, so that search engines recognize an in-depth piece. Another tip: while you may fall in love with your clever title that involves a play on words, search engines prefer simpler and more direct headlines.
Invite popular influencers and other subject-matter experts to guest blog. This can result in greater social sharing across platforms and expose your blog (and brand) to potential customers, business partners and others. By the same token, let it be known that your company representatives are open to writing for other blogs that make sense – a complementary voice and target audience are important considerations when considering guest blog opportunities. There are other tangible benefits to guest blogging including landing backlinks from key sites and greater visibility in more than one community. For example, heightened exposure has helped elevate indie tech reviewer Carley Knobloch, who parlayed her posts into many on-air television spots as an expert media resource. By being a good guest blogger and adding value to someone else’s blog, you will build relationships and grow your audience.
This is probably the most important piece of advice for anyone looking to up their blog game. Quora took a stab at estimating how many blogs there are in the world – infographicputs the figure at 152 million blogs for year 2013. Even this somewhat dated statistic shows what competition is like for online readers. In the past few years blogging has also become much more sophisticated, especially for business blogs. Readers want practical advice, industry insights or provocative, counter-intuitive points-of-view. They don’t want a commercial for your company or an aggregation or rehash of other blogs. It’s imperative to find an authentic voice, relevant topics, cool visuals and valuable information. This combination can be the key to attracting more readers and helping make your blog posts more PR-worthy.
Once you’ve acquired an audience (your analytics are up, you regularly get shares and occasional calls from media on the topics you’ve covered) readers will expect to hear from you. If you don’t stick to a regular schedule, you risk losing them to the next interesting writer. In our “culture of impatience,” any journalist or potential customer visiting your site and seeing stale posts (over a month old) is going to be turned off. Fresh new and helpful posts will build and keep an audience, so it’s important to put together a schedule you can maintain. Two posts per week is optimal. Also, longer pieces will help your ranking over the long run. Statistics show that there’s a direct correlation between word count and rankings. Ideally, some experts say, shoot for 2,000 words, but at least 1,000 and expect to spend 2-3 hours per post.
Most writers benefit from a second pair of eyes. Best practices suggest keeping jargon to a minimum, writing in a conversational way and sprinkling in interesting quotes and links. There’s a lot of mediocre writing out there, even in professionally edited publications, and for Gen X and beyond, there’s evidence that sharp writing skills may be in short supply. But proper grammar and sentence structure still count. Good writing is good communication, and we should all strive to make every piece of content a minor gem.
Of course it’s important to have a strategy to promote blog posts via social media platforms and links, but you may want to go beyond the basics once you’ve developed a respectable body of work. We recommend pitching your posts to industry publications hungry for guest content. Often with some simple tweaks, a post can have many lives and help expand your audience.
There are some excellent blogs in every industry that attract an active community of commenters, but much of the commenting on individual blog sites has migrated to social platforms like Facebook. Don’t let that discourage you; look for a positive trendline on your blog analytics page, requests for reposts, and “likes” and RTs as measures of success.