Did you know that 55% of marketers say blogging is their top inbound marketing priority? Did you also know that these marketers are 13x more likely to see positive ROI than marketers who don’t invest in blogging?
Over the last decade or so, businesses have increased revenue, improved brand awareness, and boosted conversions with valuable written content published for their target audience and customers. The key here is that their blog content is valuable — it isn’t enough to simply have a blog; there has to be a purpose or reason for its existence.
So, how can you create and maintain a successful blog that provides your target audience with worthwhile and high-quality content, all while building your business’s reputation as an industry thought-leader and expert?
The answer is with a blog marketing strategy.
Before we review the steps to your blog marketing strategy, let’s take a look at how to create a successful blog first. These steps are a necessary part of building your blogging strategy — after all, you need to ensure you’re creating great content before marketing it.
1. Choose a blog topic.
The first step in creating a successful blog is to determine your topic. This should be broad enough so you can write dozens (or hundreds) of articles about it, but also specific enough to relate it to your business, purpose, niche, and industry. For example, HubSpot has separate blogs for Marketing, Sales, and Service.
2. Pick a host.
Next, you’ll need to pick a host for your business’s blog. The (arguably) easiest way to host your blog is to do it through the same software you’re using to run your website.
For example, as a HubSpot CRM user, you’ll have access to website creation, management, and optimization, along with several other COS features including the blogging tool — HubSpot allows you to run all aspects of your business, including your blog, from a central location.
Here’s a list of some of the features you automatically get when you choose HubSpot to host your blog:
- Free blog editor
- Blog scheduler
- Mobile optimization
- SEO optimization
- CTA creator
- Content collaboration
- Content calendar
- AMP support
Another common way to host your business’s blog is through WordPress — you can compare the features you get when hosting your blog through HubSpot vs. WordPress here. Other popular options include Wix, Bluehost, and Squarespace.
3. Register a domain, subdomain, and subdirectory.
Now, let’s talk about your blog’s URL structure — this is where necessary a discussion about registering domains, subdomains, and subdirectories comes into play.
A domain name, also known as the root domain, is the text in a URL that identifies your website — and, therefore, your business — for a web browser. For example, HubSpot’s domain name is hubspot.com.
Subdomains are a part of your root domain — they appear before the domain in your URL like this: blog.hubspot.com. “Blog” is the subdomain.
Subdirectories are divisions of your domain that live on your website, but represent specific pages on your website. For example, a subdirectory that’d take visitors to a specific blog post on a website would look something like this: hubspot.com/blog/article-name.
Subdirectories can also represent certain types of content within a subdomain. For example, blog.hubspot.com/marketing/article-name takes visitors to a marketing article on blog.hubspot.com.
The option you choose for your blog has the potential to impact your organic ranking which is why it’s important to choose wisely. So, let’s take a look at some of the implications related to your organic ranking that come with these options.
Subdomains vs. Subdirectories
Subdomains are great for organizing a lot of content, including multiple content types. So, if you have a large blog operation, this structure can help you over time. However, it does pass less authority from your root domain in the short term.
Subdirectories often pass more authority from your root domain and subdomain. However, they can make it hard to scale your content strategy over time since you need more subdirectories to organize your content properly and protect your user experience (UX).
4. Decide who will write and manage your blog.
Now it’s time to think about headcount — who’s writing, running, and managing your blog? And who’s accountable for each role within your blog strategy?
There are lots of moving parts when it comes to your blog — if you don’t create ownership around each component, it’ll be difficult to reap the benefits of a successful blog operation. We’ve put together a list of some examples of the roles you need to fill to effectively implement a blogging strategy.
Note: Depending on your resources and the size of your marketing team, you may find one person holds responsibility for multiple roles.
- Blog article topic ideation
- Search engine optimization (SEO) and keyword research
- Facts, stats, examples, and personal stories
- Copywriting and editing
- Strategy and editorial calendar governance
- Repurposing and updating
5. Write compelling and valuable content.
This step may seem like it’s a given, but it’s important to reiterate how critical it is for your blog content to be both compelling and valuable to your readers. This plays a large part in how you’re viewed by your target audience, customers, competitors, and other industry leaders. It’s also how you’re going to keep readers engaged and loyal to your blog.
Remember, it takes more time and energy to obtain new subscribers than to maintain current readers. Plus, your current readers have the potential of becoming your brand advocates faster than new subscribers do. So, focus on consistently producing content that captivates your audience all while providing them with useful and worthwhile information so they stick around for the long run.
6. Design your blog.
Designing your blog in a way that entices your readers to regularly read (and hopefully, share) your content is critical. You want your blog to look inviting and on-brand. It should be well-organized, clean, and easy to navigate, all while meshing with your other marketing, branding, and messaging. Your readers should know the blog they’re looking at is published by your company, no matter where or how they’re reading it.
To do this, choose a theme that will remain consistent (unless your business goes through a major rebrand and/ or change) throughout all of your blog articles. Depending on the host you choose for your blog, you’ll likely have several theme options that are both free and paid.
For example, HubSpot offers a marketplace of free and paid blog template options for you to implement on your site. This way you can easily customize and edit your blog template to tailor it to your business.
7. Include CTAs.
Are any of the reasons you’re developing your business’s blog to drive organic traffic to your website, improve conversions, and boost sales?
That’s great news — but to accomplish these goals, you’ll need to include relevant calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout your blog posts.
CTAs can be paid or free for your audience members. Either way, effective CTAs provide readers with a level of value that they simply cannot pass up.
A CTA might share in-depth content and information with your audience on a specific topic. Or maybe it includes a discount code or special deal on your product or service. A CTA could also provide further training related to the subject of your blog article.
Check out this blog post if you’re looking for some examples of clickable CTAs to insert in your content.
Note: If you’re a HubSpot user, the CRM offers a CTA creation tool to help you develop relevant — and even personalized — offers to drive traffic to your landing pages and convert more leads.
8. Determine the frequency in which you’ll share blog posts.
How many blog posts can you commit to scheduling? How often are you planning on producing blog content for your audience?
You need to consistently produce blog articles to keep your audience engaged and interested. This will also allow you to maintain your status as an active thought-leader and expert in your industry. To do this, use an editorial calendar to manage and schedule your blog posts.
The beauty of creating this type of blogging rhythm and sharing that information via an editorial calendar is that it creates a sense of accountability among your team of bloggers. It ensures all writers and contributors have optimized for keywords, added CTAs, and edited their pieces by a certain time and date. This way, you’ll have a consistent stream of content your readers can get in sync with.
Note: If you’re a HubSpot CRM user, you already benefit from an editorial calendar built right into the COS.
9. Launch your blog.
Now it’s time to launch your blog! This is the exciting part — you finally get to share the content you’ve been working so hard to develop. Put your blog content on it’s corresponding landing page on your website and send your email list of recipients their blog article(s). Share it via social media and send it to members of your network as you see fit.
10. Track and analyze your blog’s success.
Remember to track and analyze the success of your blog over time. To do this, decide which metrics matter most to you and your business. Once you understand how a specific metric contributes to a positive outcome, then you’ll be able to make your blogging strategy more targeted. Examples of blogging metrics you might track include:
- Number of readers and subscribers
- Number of page views per post
- Number of conversions
- Number of backlinks
- Number of referrals
- Overall traffic
When applying these metrics to the goals you’re looking to set, consider the following questions to provide concrete targets that make sense for your business.
- Does this goal help you achieve your purpose, or is there something more relevant we can aspire to?
- Is this goal aligned with the initiatives of other parts of our business?
- Which metrics track the progress towards this goal? Are these metrics complementary or counterintuitive?
Once you determine which metrics you’re going to use, start by setting goals for a 60-day period. This gives you enough time to see whether your strategy is working and then you can adapt your goals based on the results you see.
Now that you have a better understanding of the steps to creating a successful blog, let’s dive into your strategy next.
Blog Marketing Strategy
Once you’ve worked through the steps to creating a successful blog, you can apply them to create a larger strategy that promotes and markets your content to your target audience.
1. Determine your blog’s purpose.
The first part of developing your marketing strategy requires you to clearly define your blog’s purpose. You determined the topic your blog will be about above, but that’s not necessarily its purpose.
When thinking about your blog’s purpose, ask yourself, “Why does this blog exist?”
You should be able to answer that question in one, straightforward, defining statement. (Document your blog’s purpose to you can refer to it as you grow and your business evolves.)
If you need help defining your blog’s purpose, take a moment to ask yourself these questions:
- What is the greater purpose your company is trying to fulfill?
- What story supports this purpose?
- Who shares your passion for this purpose?
- Is your team aligned with the meaning of this purpose?
2. Always keep your buyer personas top of mind.
When writing, managing, and scheduling your blog — or working on anything related to your blog, really — keep your buyer personas top of mind. Your buyer personas are your target customers, or the group of people you aim to sell to.
Ask yourself, “Who are our ideal customers?” and “Why do they need our product or service?” Once you can answer these questions in detail, you’ll be nail down your buyer persona(s).
Use this free template to create your business’s buyer personas.
Once you create your buyer personas, document a detailed description of who this person is so you can reference it has your business and blog grow. You should be able to refer to this description every time you write a new blog post.
This way, you’ll be able to create content specifically suited to your target customers’ wants, needs, challenges, and/ or pain points. This will also help you turn your blog into a powerful lead conversion tool for your business (i.e. your blog will show your readers and target audience why they need your product or service).
To get a deeper understanding of the actions your buyer personas are likely going to take, research the behaviors of your target audience so you can adapt and tailor your blog content to meet their needs in a way that pushes them to convert in some way. To conduct this type of customer research, you can use:
- Q&A forums (Quora, Yahoo! Answers, or Fluther)
- Social media (LinkedIn Groups, Twitter Advanced Search, and Google+ Communities)
- Content creation tools within your industry or niche (BuzzSumo or Topsy)
- Other blogs (comments and interactions on blogs similar to yours; your competitors’ blogs)
3. Keep an eye on your competition.
Speaking of your competitor’s blogs, it’s important to keep an eye on these other thought-leaders in your industry. Your competitors provide insight into what’s working (or not working) in terms of blog content among your target audience.
It also tells you a little bit about what they’re experimenting with and what you’ll need to accomplish to stand out and provide your readers with valuable content they can’t get anywhere else — something unique to your business and your business only.
Create a list of 5-10 of your closest competitors with blogs you could conduct a content audit on. Make conclusions about the type of content they share, unique techniques they’ve implemented in their blog, and how they’re doing in terms of ranking for the keywords you hope to rank for.
Then, look for gaps in their content so you can capitalize on them. To help you do this, use tools like QuickSprout, Open Site Explorer by Moz, and SEMRush Competitor Research.
4. Perform SEO and keyword research.
When one of your customers searches a phrase on Google (or any search engine), you want them to find your blog (or web page), not a competitor’s. To make this happen, dedicate some time to researching which keywords and phrases your target audience is typing into search engines so you can include them in your blog posts where they naturally fit.
In other words, you’ll significantly improve your chances of ranking on the search engine results page (SERP) by performing appropriate search engine optimization (SEO) and keyword research prior to writing your blog post, and then incorporating those findings in your content.
Start by creating a list of 5-10 keyword groups you want to rank for, along with their associated long-tail keywords, in the SERP.
Remember, Google’s algorithms are constantly changing to become more intuitive — meaning, old tactics like keyword stuffing will hurt your ranking in the SERP. Instead, you’re better off writing copy that engages audience members first and search engines second.
Note: HubSpot customers have access to a built-in keyword and SEO tool to help with this.
Focus on your blog’s SEO and keyword research with HubSpot CRM’s Content Strategy tool.
5. Decide where you’ll distribute your blog content.
Strategically determine where you’ll distribute your blog content. You chose a host for your blog already, meaning your content is likely already easily shareable on your website.
For example, if you use the HubSpot CRM and blogging software to host and manage your website and blog, it’s simple to add your articles to their corresponding landing page on your site.
Other ways and platforms through which you might distribute your content include social media, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, and online publishing platforms, such as Medium. You might also work with industry leaders, experts, and influencers to share your content on their websites and social profiles.
6. Update and repurpose your content.
Creating blog content can be time-consuming, especially when you aim to command authority in your niche with researched, thoughtful, and planned posts.
This is why updating, repurposing, and republishing your existing blog content is so valuable — it saves you time and energy but it also allows you to efficiently achieve the results you’re looking for.
What do I mean by this? Well, ranking in the SERP with a net new post takes significantly more time (I’m talking months) than an updated post. Meaning, you’ll see a positive impact sooner if you start repurposing existing posts rather than solely creating new content.
Audit your existing blog posts to determine what you can repurpose and update. Outdated content to remove and/ or replace might include statistics, examples, infographics, quotes, product or service details, research, and irrelevant ideas. You can also add keywords you’ve determined are missing through your research.
(Check out this post if you’re looking for more ideas on how you can effectively repurpose your blog content.)
7. Promote your blog content.
It’s probably safe to assume you want your blog content to be as discoverable as possible. In terms of your blogging strategy, this refers to your ability to get your content out there so members of your target audience find, read, and (hopefully) share it.
There are many inbound tactics you can use to promote your blog. We touched on a few options above, but another common form of effective blog promotion involves an influencer marketing strategy.
Get started promoting your content with the help of a free influencer marketing guide.
To begin, identify the key influencers in your niche or industry you want to contact and work with. These should be people your current customers and target audience perceive as credible, trustworthy… and, yes, influential.
As you begin making and managing your influencer connections, remain in regular contact with the ones who are promoting your blog content. Be sure you know what they’re doing to support, share, and promote your blog content and that their tactics meet your business’s standards — you want to ensure they’re representing your brand accurately. After all, you’re likely paying them to promote your content among their audience members.
You can make your relationship with your influencers even stronger by interacting with their content regularly to show your support. For example, if you’re working with an influencer who also has a blog, then go to their blog and read, comment on, and share it (even when the content they’re publishing isn’t necessarily related to your business).
Grow Better With An Effective Blogging Strategy
Growing an influential blog in your niche is a surefire way to nurture your potential customers. By creating regular content that solves the challenges of your readers and fulfills their biggest curiosities, you’ll start to build a vault of trust and advocacy. This will inevitably contribute to the overall success of your business. Start with your purpose — the big why — and slowly unpack the individual levers that will contribute to your blog marketing performance through the steps and strategy we’ve reviewed above.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.