Hello and welcome to our first Facebook live of 2021. Welcome to all of you who are watching this afternoon as this goes out Live, as well as to those of you who are watching this on the replay. I'm David Miles. I'm on a mission to help mortgage brokers and financial advisors to generate their own leads online, so they can stop giving money to lead generation companies.
Now, one of the things I've had a few people ask me about recently is blogging. Whether running a blog is still a worthwhile thing to do in this day and age, when there are obviously various other ways you can get content out there, like video podcasts, etc. Then, I thought I'd talk about that. Also, the other reason for choosing this topic at this particular time is because I'm very conscious that we're in January, people have made new year's resolutions. Very often, one of the new year's resolutions that business owners make is that I'm going to start a blog and be consistent about blogging this year.
I know that happens because quite often, when I'm asked to audit somebody's website, this happened to me only a couple of months ago. I was auditing someone's site. Hello James, if you're watching. There was a blog there posted in August 2020. Before that, there had been about four in January 2020. Then before that been a big gap. There were lots at the beginning of 2019, and there was some at the beginning of 2018.
Clearly, this was someone who had started last two or three years thinking that I'm gonna be blogging this year. Then, it goes by late January or early February; the excitement and the momentum had worn off a bit like people joining the gym in January. Basically, it's the same kind of idea. So I thought this was a good time for that reason, also, because of having people ask me about it to look at the topic of blogging.
Before we get started, I'll check if the tech is working. An iPad down here, so I can see people's comments and things. If you are watching at the moment, you could just post a quick hello, and maybe just say whether you currently run a blog, either one that's actually active or one that's gone dormant. Whether it's something that you are thinking of doing, that would be great. Hang on, let me just get that set so I can actually see the comments. Right. Okay.
We're gonna be talking about the benefits of blogging and asking whether it's still relevant in a world where we have other options, like YouTube, podcasts, etc. Let me just turn my screen share back on. As you can see in the slides, let's start right at the beginning. What actually is a blog? Well, technically, the word blog is actually a contraction of the word web and log, a weblog.
Basically, a blog is a log, logbook, like a diary or whatever if you like that someone can keep on the web. Think of it basically as a section of your website, where you can add new content regularly very easy. As easy as if you were typing a document in word. The website platforms like WordPress make it really easy for people to start and run a blog. Then, what kind of stuff goes in a blog?
Well, it can be all sorts of things. It can be just sort of informational kind of posts. In the case that kind of people are watching this today, information about mortgages, how they work or about financial products like pensions, investments or whatever. Also, it can be a place where you can share news or industry news. You might post something about a bank of England, base rate card, or something or news of your own that may be of interest to other people.
You can share opinions. That's kind of linked to the news thing. You might write a post about what's going on in the news at the moment but actually put your own spin on it. Give your own opinions as to whether you think this is a good or a bad thing that is that you're talking about.
It's also a good place to share tips about your particular area of expertise, whether that's financial advice, mortgages, protection, or whatever. Tips that your potential clients and existing clients may find useful. Obviously, there are more things that you can put in, but they're the kind of things that you typically find. Then I'll talk a bit more later on about how you can come up with ideas for exactly what kind of content to put into your blogs.
Why should people be blogging? Well, there are several reasons. I've picked really what I think of the top four reasons it's a good idea. Even now, in 2021 that, blogging might be seen as an old school by some people. I think there were four really good reasons, at least why people should be doing it.
The first is all about building up authority. It's really important, particularly when you operate in a crowded marketplace, like financial services. Whereby large, all financial advisors and all mortgage brokers are all offering the same products from the same insurance companies or the same lenders. It becomes really important to have some way of differentiating yourself. Building up authority and becoming seen as the go-to person, the expert on this, is one way to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Think about it from the client's point of view. If they're trusting someone with their life savings or they're trusting the future of their retirement to a particular advisor or something, are they gonna want to go to someone who clearly has a really strong in-depth knowledge of the industry and of the sector? Or, are they going to want to go to someone who probably does have just as much knowledge but isn't demonstrating that in any way?
Then, if you can get your blog going well, use it to show you an authority on the subject, and you're keeping up to date with industry developments. That's gonna help engender more trust and credibility. It means that people are more willing to do business with you rather than one of your competitors.
Running a blog can be a big-time save as well. You might think that it's a bit weird. How can it save time? Because I've gotta, sit there, write articles, publish them and whatever. However, if you blog about the right kinds of things, it can actually be a big time saver because you can basically write a piece of information once in the form of a blog, but then you can use that information again to save yourself, writing the same thing over and over again.
Let me give you an example in my business. I often find that I'm sending emails to prospective clients talking about the kind of ways I can help them. A lot of you know that one of the things that I help mortgage brokers do is to decide what kind of niche they're gonna focus on within the mortgage industry.
Now, a lot of the time, the prospective clients I'm talking to don't understand anything about niching; they've never heard of it before. Then, if I'm sending them an email, I'd have to write quite a lengthy explanation as to what I mean by niching. Why is it a good thing? How do you do it? But the thing is, I've already got at least one blog article all about the benefits to mortgage brokers of finding a niche. If you're not read it yet, I recommend you do. Then, if I'm sending an email to a prospective client where I'm saying one of the things I help with is finding a niche, I can just say that in the email and link to the article. If they want more information on what niching is and why it's a good idea, they can click through there and read it.
If you're clever about the kind of things you blog about, what you'll start doing is blogging about the things that you often find yourself explaining to clients or potential clients. For example, as a mortgage broker, you find that with virtually every potential client you speak to, you are having to explain to them how credit checking works and how they get copies of their credit file from different credit reference agencies. Rather than having to explain that countless times or put it in countless emails, you could write a blog about that particular thing.
That might take you half an hour to write that blog, but it means that from then on, any time that you need to explain that concept to someone, you can just send them a link to that blog article. Of course, while they're there reading that, they may read other articles of yours. All of which will help them form hopefully a better impression of you because they'll be reading about the other thing you've talked about and getting that sense of how credible and how much authority you've got.
The other reason is content. Obviously, one of the reasons that are said for having content on your site is it may save you time. Another reason is search engines like websites, which have plenty of content. Also, content that is being regularly added to change, updated, etc because search engines like Google will see that as a sign that your website is up to date. That it's a good source of information and that they should return in search results. I'll show you a real-world example of the impact of that in a moment.
The other reason why that content is useful too, this linked into something that I was talking about on today's group coaching call with the members of the predictable pipeline program. We were talking about how you can build relationships with potential clients. Also, in particular, how you can use email marketing to build rapport with potential clients and prospects, so as they come to you when they're ready to get a mortgage, get financial advice, or whatever it is.
Of course, the more content you've got on your website in the form of your blog. The more useful things you've got available, but you can share with people in the emails that you sent to them. Those who are on my mailing list, which I suspect is most people watching this at the moment. You notice that a lot of emails I send are actually just short emails with a link to a blog article where you can read more about that particular topic. Then, that content is good, both from your own point of view, but also from the point of view of the fact that the search engines will favour your site more if it has genuinely useful and regularly updated content.
Then the fourth reason why I think you should be blogging and why you should still be blogging day even if there are other things available you could be doing instead. It is because blogs give you a great way to get links to your website from other sites. They're a really useful tool or an essential tool really when it comes to doing any kind of link-building exercise.
Now, for those who aren't familiar with what I mean by link building. It's an aspect and a very important aspect of search engine optimization. In simple terms, when Google is deciding which websites to show in the search results for any organic search results, I'm talking about here is not the paid; they look broadly speaking in two things. They look at how well optimized your website is, what kind of content's on it, how easily they can work out and what that content's about. Also, Google also looks for signs that your website is an authority on that particular subject.
One of the ways it will determine that you are a credible, authoritative source is by looking at how many other websites link to your site. Then, what most people do is rather than just sit back and wait for links to come naturally because that may never happen or could take a very long while. If you're doing SEO yourself, or you're paying someone else to do it for you, a big part of it is all about approaching other website owners. Ask if they will link to an article or some other kind of content on your own website.
Now, obviously, it becomes much easier to get people to link to you if you have genuinely useful content available on your site. The easier way to have that genuinely useful content is to have it in the form of a blog. Then, you can go to other websites and say, "I noticed you've got this article here about the first time in buying mortgages. I've written an article about that, which I think has got some really useful information, which your readers would find helpful as well. Would you be interested in linking your article to mine?"
That's just a simple example of the kind of thing we're talking about, but there's a lot more to link building than that. If you want to know more about it, I suggest you go on Google and search for "Shotgun Skyscraper," two words. The top result that comes up will be an article of mine describing a link-building process and how that works. Although, fundamental to it is having content that people are gonna want to link to.
I mentioned search engines liking content. Just a stat to back that up. It's been shown that websites that have blogs and, therefore, which have that kind of content have 434% of pages indexed in search engines. Obviously, those of you have been following me for a while, you know I'm a big fan of paid search traffic in the form of things like Google ads, but equally, the more organic traffic you can get, the better as well because your organic traffic isn't costing you for each click. Then, even if you're doing things like Google ads, it is a good idea to be doing things as well, to supplement that with organic traffic and having content in the form of a blog is a really good way to do that which was born out by that statistic there.
Now I said, I'd show you a real-world example. This is a real-world example that actually comes from my own website. I obviously had a website for my business right from day one, but initially, I didn't get around to putting any kind of blog on it. What that meant was the level of organic traffic to my site was quite low, where it was steady, but it was low.
Initially, that didn't worry me because I was like a lot of you guys probably are doing; I was relying purely on referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations to grow my business. Then, it got to a point where I thought, well, actually, I need to be supplemented. It can't rely on referrals forever, because as I'm sure you all know, trouble with referrals can be a bit of a feast and famine. Some weeks or months, you'll get several referrals, and maybe you could go several weeks without anything at all.
It becomes very difficult to plan and scale a business if you're relying totally on referrals and word of mouth. Of course, then, you get times like a global pandemic when no one's going out and seeing each other and socializing. Of course, that causes the word of mouth referrals to drop as well. Then, it's not a good idea to be relying on that, but anyway, I took the decision that I wanted to start growing the organic traffic to my site. The first thing I did was actually start a blog, and I did that here at the beginning of 2019.
Hopefully, you can see, depending on what size screen you're on, that after a few months, just round about here. Then, what's that? About June or July kind of time, this graph here, which is the number of visitors to the site per month, this graph just starts to slightly move up a little bit. It's just starting to see a slight uptick. That is pure as a result of having started doing the blog. It was increasing the amount of content. Google was starting to take more interest in the site. Google was also seeing that every time it came back to the site; there was a new piece of content had been added. They like that kind of thing.
Then, once I'd built up a sort of critical mass of content, the next thing I did at this second arrow was I started doing quite an intensive link-building campaign. I started doing that Shotgun Skyscraper Outreach that I recommended you have a read-up on the article about—asking people to link to different articles. This is where you can see things really started to take off. After doing two or three months of this link building, we start to see steady increases in the amount of organic traffic.
I think little occasional months where there's a dip around. I think that's December there. Obviously, there are fewer people around because of Christmas and whatever, but the general trend started to become noticeably upwards. Then the third hour there perhaps the start of the COVID pandemic and the first lockdown. Like a lot of business owners in those initial few weeks when the world kind of stopped, I did the sensible thing and right.
Nothing is going on in the outside world. Now's the time to focus inwards and really catch up on some of that marketing. Then, I had a big increase in the amount of content I was putting out, which again led to a sort of further increase. That's January, so that's not a complete month. That's why that's so low. You can hopefully see from that the impact of first blogging and having the content there. Then secondly, amplify that content by getting people to link to it. But of course, you can't do any of that unless you've got a blog in the first place.
Let's just talk quickly about some of those alternatives then. The alternatives to blog, if you say, well, what if I don't wanna run a blog? I could just put stuff on media, post up on Facebook, LinkedIn, or whatever. Well, yeah, you can, and you certainly should be posting on those things. However, there are two things to bear in mind with social media.
Firstly, those are platforms that you do not own. Personally, I would rather, whilst I might use social media to spread the word about what I'm doing and to share my content more widely. Ultimately, I want the place that people are coming to be my website because I own that, I'm in control of it, and I'm not subject to whatever whims or changes Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or whatever decide to bring in at any point.
Also, if you are posting stuff on social media, then obviously, you've gotta have things to post. If you have a blog of your own, that immediately gives you a whole source of content, which you can share on social media. Then, without that, you would just be commenting on things or sharing other people's content by having your own blog and your own reservoir of content. You've immediately got more things that you can be sharing on your social media platforms.
YouTube, the video is where things are moving to particularly the younger generation favour video of written content. I get all that, not arguing with that at all. Also, YouTube is owned by Google second, biggest search engine, etc. Then, yes, you should be doing YouTube stuff as well, but a lot of the things that you put on YouTube could potentially start life as a blog.
For example, some of the things on my YouTube channel are things that originally I wrote as a blog article, and then I've turned them into a video. Even if it's just a video of me talking to the camera, saying basically the same thing that's in the blog, it allows people to consume that content in a different way and in a way that may be preferable to them if they prefer a video rather than a written word. But the point is that by having done the blog in the first place, I then got the material. I can very easily turn that into a video.
Similarly with podcasts. Yeah, podcasts are great. I listen to loads of podcasts myself. I'm sure you do as well. Although, I think there is a lot more work to produce a podcast than it is to write an article or, to write a blog article because you've gotta have the recording equipment. Also, you've gotta edit it afterward, all that kind of thing.
But again, if you are gonna be doing podcasts, if you've got blogs already, that gives you a lot of source material for your podcast and a lot of stuff that you can talk about in your podcast or just at the simplest form, take something you've written and turn it into one on more podcast episodes. I'm not saying that these will don't have a place. What I'm saying is that blogging is still relevant because it can actually help you do a better job with your social media, your YouTube, your podcast, etc.
Hopefully, that makes sense, and hopefully, now I've convinced you that blogging is a good thing. Let's think about what kind of things should people actually be blogging about. There are various things, but I think these are some of the easiest ones to get started. I think one of the first things you should do is try and blog about the common questions that people have about your industry, your products, your services, or whatever.
There are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, it goes back to the thing I said earlier about using your blog content as a time-saving thing and being able to point people towards an article you've written in response to a question they may have. Also, it's good from a search engine optimization point of view. A lot of the things that people type into Google are questions. Can I get a mortgage if I've got a 5% deposit? Can I get a mortgage if I've been furloughed? All sorts of questions people ask about mortgages, about investments, about everything else.
If you have blog entries or blog posts that answer those questions, then you have a good chance of ranking high up in the search results when someone types in one of those things. Think about the kind of questions that clients and potential clients ask you at the moment, or if you're stuck for ideas, there are online tools that can help you, such as an online tool called answerthepublic.com. You can go to that, and you can put in a keyword like pension advice. It will tell you all the kinds of questions people ask about that.
You could also look on sites like Quora. See what kinds of questions people are posting there and what kind of answers people are giving, even if you go to Google and just start typing a particular keyword or topic if you go to Google and start typing in mortgages, first-time buying mortgages, or shared ownership mortgages. In the list of suggestions, Google will show you suggestions. Those are based on things that people have actually been searching for. Then, you could create content that answers those questions.
Writing blog articles with tips and advice is always a good thing. I think I mentioned that back at the start. Those simple sort of list-based blog posts like "10 Tips To Improve Your Chances Of Getting A Mortgage", those kinds of things. Similarly, here you could do blogs about mistakes to avoid, "Five Things You Must Avoid Doing If You Want To Retire At 55", "Four Things You Must Avoid Doing If You Want To Get The Best Mortgage Rate," or whatever. Then, by having those kinds, it gives them kind of more attractive headlines as well or more attractive titles very often.
As we talked about earlier, you can share industry news. As I said, try, and if you're doing that, give your own take on it as well. Because again, that adds to the sort of leadership thing rather than just regurgitating other people's news. You can say the financial conduct authority announced this today; the impact of this on consumers is so on. I think this is a good idea because X, Y, Z, or I think it's a bad idea because X, Y, Z, whatever, but try and make it your own.
If you could do blogs around original research, that's really good. Because obviously, it means it's stuff that people won't have seen anywhere else. It also is generally easier to get people to link to stuff that is original research as well. For example, I'm at the moment working on a blog article that's gonna be based on the results of a poll that's been running in this Facebook group, where people have been asked, what's the main way that you get your leads at the moment and best choices like referrals, buying leads, Google, Facebook? Then, I'm gonna start analyzing some of that data and seeing if there's scope there to write an article about the most common ways that mortgage brokers and IFAs get their leads.
If I create a blog out of that, there'll be statistics in there which are not gonna be found anywhere else. Then, people are more likely to want to link to that. Whether they're journalists or whatever, it's a good way to get links into your site if you've got something on your site that people can link to that they won't find anywhere else. Obviously, it takes a little bit more work, but the more work you put in, the more you get out. I mean stories. People and human beings love reading stories. That could be stories about things that have happened to you in your business, or it could be case study-type stories. Anything that helps bring the subject alive. Storytelling is a really good way to do that.
Then the final thing you need to think about, once you've thought about how are you going to and what are you gonna blog about, is, how are you gonna be consistent? How are you gonna keep this thing? How are you going to avoid being that person who starts a blog in January, and by the middle of February, it was withered and died? This is actually easier than you might think. It's just a case of knowing what the techniques are.
I think the one really important thing is to plan. Have a content calendar. If you've written down a plan, you are far more likely to keep to it than if you just do things randomly. Then, take a calendar for the coming year, the coming quarter, or whatever. Plan out what you are gonna blog about each week, each month, each fortnight. Whatever frequency you've decided you're gonna do, have it planned out in advance.
Not only that helps make sure that you are more likely to do it, but it also gives you a bit more structure. It means you might decide to take a bigger topic and maybe break it down into three parts. So, in February, you might write three blogs, but they're part one, two, and three of an overall article. Then, by planning it out, it becomes easier to see where those opportunities exist. To break things, or do a whole series of blogs on a particular theme, and then move on to the next one.
I also find and I know from talking to other people; I'm not unusual in this. I find that ideas for blogs come to me at the exact moments when I'm not in a position to write a blog. I might get ideas for what a blog article, but I'm driving in the car, walking the dog, or whatever. However, if I actually sit down to write a blog, that's the point, which my mind will go blank.
Then, a really good way to deal with that is to have some kind of place where you can capture the ideas as they come to. That could be a simple notebook, Google doc, card, Trello board, whatever you preferred kind of thing, but have somewhere that when every idea for a blog post comes to you, just put that idea down. I don't even think about trying to write it at that point, but what that means is that then when you do come to actually write something rather than spending the first half an hour sitting there thinking, what should I write about, all you've gotta do is pick up your ideas bank and go. We'll write about that one today. That removes one of the massive barriers to actually getting started on doing the writing.
I've said there about when you come to do the writing; I think it's a really good idea to batch your writing. Set aside a particular time each week, each fortnight, once a month, whatever works for you, and say that that is your blog writing time. Then, set aside, let's say, half a day, and aim to write three or four blogs within that time period. It's far more effective. Any productivity expert will tell you that it's far more effective to focus on one thing for a batch of time like that.
Then, you don't; don't publish all those blogs all at once, but you get them there when you can drip-feed them out over the coming weeks. If you've got your ideas bank, it becomes quite easy to pick up the ideas list. I'm gonna write those four blogs this morning, shut yourself away for a couple of hours, write those. That's then your reservoir of content for the next few weeks.
Be consistent. We've talked about the blogs that start well and then disappear. Don't set yourself unrealistic goals. What we don't want is for you to start; in the first week, you're blogging every day, and then it drops to once a week and then once a month and then once a quarter. It's far better to say, right, I'm gonna commit to publishing one blog. Let's say, once a week, once a fortnight, once a month, whatever that's gonna work for you. Then stick to that and use scheduling of your posts to mean that even if you do have five blog posts, sit there ready to go, don't be tempted to publish them all on the same day or the same week. Hold them back and drip them out then, as you've got that consistent schedule.
Because people will over time come to know that, okay, John publishes something once a week, and it's normally on a Wednesday. Then, they'll get used to that. If you get really good at this, they'll actually be anticipating and looking forward to it. This is exactly the reason why popular podcasts or before, the TV shows come out at the same time, on the same day, every week. So then people know when to expect it. They're queued up, ready and waiting for it.
The other way that you can help yourself keep going is to not be afraid to recycle content or, if not repurpose it. I talked about earlier, in the same way as you can, for example, create a YouTube video based on a blog you've already written. You can do that the other way around as well. If you are more of a video person than a writing person and you've created two or three YouTube videos, well, you could make a blog post out of that YouTube video. That can be as simple as embedding that YouTube video into a blog post on your website.
Either write a summary of it below or even write a complete transcript of what you've talked about in the video. If you don't fancy transcribing it yourself because, frankly, that's not very exciting. Then there are services like rev.com that will do that. It's like it costs someone like a pound a minute or something to have a video transcribed. Even if you've written a blog already, maybe a year or so ago, you could do an updated version of it.
If you've written an article about something, you could turn that into a list of tips about that same thing. So there are all sorts of ways that you can repurpose your content. Even if you've written a big piece, like a book or something, take individual snippets and use those as blogs. If you think about it, there are all sorts of different ways that you can get maximum value out of your content by using the same content more than once, but in different forms or with a slightly different spin on it or whatever.
I hope that's given you a few good ideas. I hope it's showing you the benefits of blogging and made you see that actually; it doesn't have to be a huge amount of task. It's actually something that anyone can approach if they just know the kind of process to go through. If you want to know more about using a blog and, in particular, using a blog to generate leads for a financial services business, I have written, funny enough, a blog about that. The address is there on the screen. Have a read about it. It talks about the kind of thing I've covered today, and it's got some more ideas of different things that you can include in your blog post.
Then, let's just see if we have got any questions. Don't seem to have any questions, but we've got a couple of people there saying that they have blogs or are just new to doing one. So yeah, I would say it's definitely worked. I've been to David and said, "It's got one on the website; I've been to know, how up-to-date it is on your last blog?" I would say if you don't have one at the moment, get one set up but do that planning first. Think about it, if you sit down for a couple of hours and brainstorm ideas, you'll come up easily with the years with the content that you could blog about. I'm sure.
If you're someone like David, who's already got a blog on the site. Well, maybe if it has gone dormant and I don't know if yours has David, but if it has gone a bit dormant, then let's make this the year to reinvigorate it, particularly at the moment when all of the UK's locked down and there's not that much else to do. You might as well use time constructively.
David just asked a question, you can't copy and paste the content you find, right? No, you shouldn't go copy and pasting stuff because basically, you're run into all sorts of copy. Two things, you'll run into copyright issues, and also, Google won't like it either because they'll see it as duplicate content, and they don't like that. By all means, using stuff you see on the blogs as inspiration made me think that person's written an article about it well. I mean, David said he wrote one yesterday about credit checks. Clearly, there'll be other people who have written blogs about credit checks. You might see someone else's blog and think that's a good idea, but I reckon I could write a better blog about that. Then, do that.
If you find things in other people's blogs you want to quote, then that's fine. Like that statistic that I put on the screen earlier on about websites having blogs getting more organic search traffic or whatever it was. That is obviously from someone else's website. It's mentioned in my blog article that I've linked to down on the screen. In that article, I put that quote, but then I also include a link through to the website where I've got it from. That kind of thing's alright. The same as it's okay to quote from a book when you're writing an essay at university or whatever, but you can't just copy and paste whole sections and not attribute it.
Well, if there are no other questions, I will leave them there. If you're watching this on the replay and you have questions, feel free to put them in the comments because I will be keeping an eye on this post over the next few days. If I see any other questions there, I will jump in and answer them. Thank you very much for joining us today, and see you again in a couple of weeks for the next one. Thank you so much.