It doesn't matter whether you're a mortgage broker or IFA who's selling to consumers, or a B2B company selling services to other businesses - if you want your website to be a source of leads and enquiries for your business, then it needs to have a blog.
In this article I'll explain what a blog is and give you some of my top tips for how to write blog posts that generate leads for your business.
B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that don't
What Is a Blog?
A blog (which is short for "weblog") is a regularly updated website containing a number of individual articles (known as posts). Each post has a date stamp and the posts are usually displayed in a list with the most recent one at the top. A blog can be a standalone website or it can be a section within your company's website.
Blog posts are often used to provide topical information related to current events and/or to publish reactions to recent developments within your industry. For example, if the Government announced changes to the rules around stamp duty, an estate agent of a mortgage broker might write a blog post summarising these changes and giving his thoughts on whether this was good or bad news for the housing market. Blog posts like this can be thought of as the equivalent of an opinion piece in a daily newspaper.
Blogs can also be used to provide information which is less of-the-moment and which is likely to be relevant for quite a while to come. The article you're reading at the moment is an example of this type of evergreen content.
Why Do People Write Blogs?
As I said earlier, a good blog is essential if you want your website to generate leads for your business. There are three main reasons why you'll get more leads if you have a blog:
Blogs provide value
A well-written blog is a fantastic way to demonstrate your expertise and to provide value to your potential clients. And, even before the invention of blogs, people had realised the business benefits of providing free advice and valuable content.
I often tell the story of how, back in the 1990s, I used to read a magazine for IT consultants which had a column where a lawyer would give out free legal advice and answer questions sent in by readers.
Some years later, I needed some contracts drafted and I chose this same lawyer to do the work, simply because of the value I had gained from his free content in the magazine over all those years.
20+ years later, this same marketing strategy still works, but through the medium of blogs rather than magazines.
Blogs are shareable
Take a look at LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network and you'll find that a lot of the things that appear in your feed are blog posts that have been shared - either by the original author or by someone else who has read the blog and found it shareworthy.
The more content you produce and the more useful it is, the more likely it is that people will share it via social media. This is free word-of-mouth advertising for your business.
Blogs help SEO
There are a number of ways in which having a blog can help improve your search engine optimisation (SEO).
Google loves sites which are regularly updated with useful and relevant content, and a blog is the perfect tool for hosting this content. And if your visitors find your blog content interesting and engaging, they will stay on your site for longer - which is something else that helps SEO.
If you have good quality content on your blog you are more likely to get people linking from their website to yours. This helps Google see your site as an authoritative source which, again, is a big tick in the box for SEO.
The better your site's SEO, the higher up it will appear for relevant searches on Google. Higher rankings generally mean more traffic which, in turn, means your website is likely to generate more leads.
Websites with blogs have 434% more pages indexed in search engines
What NOT to Blog About
Before we look at what sort of things you can write about in your blog, let's first of all talk about a couple of things which do not make good blog content.
Have you just taken on a new member of staff? Or opened a new office? Whilst these are probably very exciting developments for you and your staff, it's unlikely that your website visitors are going to care. So keep that kind of news for your company's internal intranet and use your blog for content which will be truly interesting and valuable for your potential customers.
Special offers and promotions are useful marketing tools for some businesses. But if your blog contains lots of posts announcing your latest discount it can start to look a bit salesy and can also cheapen your offering. Some people argue that you should not offer discounts and seasonal offers at all. I think they are sometimes a good idea, but your blog is not the best place to promote them.
Posts that exist purely to promote your services are not a good idea. For example, if an IFA wrote a blog post listing five things that were good about their pension planning service, that would not make interesting reading. That kind of content belongs on the main sales pages of your website. For a blog post you need a more subtle approach - for example, a post which talks about the different types of pensions that are available and which ends with a call to action inviting the reader to get in touch for some personalised advice on which type of pension is best for them.
Who Is Your Blog For?
Before you start writing content for your blog, it's important to have a clear idea who your audience is and what sort of person you're writing for. This will make it easier to write your blog posts and will help ensure that your content is going to be useful and relevant.
So take a moment to think about your ideal client. Ask yourself questions such as:
- who are they?
- what sort of help or advice are they looking for?
- wat problems or challenges do they have?
- how do my products or services help solve those problems?
You can learn more about this process by taking a look at my article about defining customer personas.
What Can You Blog About?
Now that we've established how important blogs are and covered some of the topics you should avoid blogging about, it's time to give you some ideas as to the kind of thing you can include in a successful blog.
Answer people's questions
If you've followed the advice from earlier, you should have a good idea about your customer avatar and who it is that you're writing for. And you've hopefully come up with a few of the common questions that your customer avatar will typically ask in relation to the services you provide.
These questions are going to be the inspiration for a lot of your blog posts so it's worth spending time to compile a good sized list of them. If you're stuck for ideas, a useful free tool is Answer The Public. You can simply enter one of your keywords (e.g. pensions) and it will show you all the different types of questions people are asking about that topic.
By writing "how to" style blog posts that answer some of these questions you can be pretty confident that your articles are going to be interesting, useful and relevant to the type of people you want to become clients of your business.
X tips for Y
This is a very popular format for blog posts and one which works really well. Simply replace X with a number (odd numbers tend to work best for some reason) and replace Y with one of the problems that your ideal customer is likely to be trying to solve.
Here are some examples:
- 5 tips to maximise your retirement income
- 7 ways to reduce your home insurance premiums
- 12 proven strategies to make your blog more interesting
- 9 tips for planning the perfect office party
The beauty of this type of blog post is that it gives you a nice simple structure to follow and each tip will usually only require two to three paragraphs of text.
X mistakes to avoid when doing Y
This is a similar concept to the X tips for Y format but this time the title taps into the reader's fear of getting things wrong.
Here are some examples:
- 3 mistakes to avoid when choosing a mortgage
- 7 social media mistakes you could be making
- 5 things that could ruin your office party
Again, the beauty of these type of blog posts is they provide a simple structure for you to work with.
Blogs with a comedy angle
Sometimes you can get a decent amount of engagement and a good number of social shares by basing your blog around something amusing that tends to happen in your industry.
For example, if you run a meeting venue you might decide to write a blog about some of the most annoying or cliched phrases that people use in meetings.
Or an insurance broker might choose to write a blog that talks about some of the funniest or strangest things people have put on an insurance claim form.
Use a Variety of Blog Formats
The majority of blog posts (like this one you're reading now) tend to be text based. But it's still a good idea to include images and diagrams to break up the text and to illustrate specific points.
You should also bear in mind that people have short attention spans and that it is harder to read things on screen than it is on paper. So it's best to keep your sentences short and simple. And you should use short and break up your article with plenty of subheadings.
As well as traditional articles, you can also have blog posts which are primarily made up of video content, such as this post of mine which shows how to set up goals in Google Analytics.
If you get the chance, it's a really good idea to include original research in your blog posts, as this makes them more shareable. For example, one of the posts of mine which gets a lot of traffic and which people like linking to is this one which provides data from an experiment I did into the effectiveness of image ads versus responsive display ads.
How Often Should You Blog?
This is a really common question and there's no perfect answer to it.
In an ideal world it would be great if you could publish a new blog post every single day. But, for most small businesses, that's simply unrealistic.
So the best piece of advice I can give is to say that you should aim to publish a new blog post at least twice a month and, above all, be consistent. It's better to post once a month every month than it is to post every day for a week and then do nothing for the next three months.
To help yourself establish a regular and consistent posting regime, I recommend you do two things:
- Create a content calendar where you plan out your upcoming blog content for the next three to six months
- Set aside half a day each week to focus on writing blog content and try to write at least four blog posts each time during this weekly slot; that way, even if you only publish one blog post per week, you'll always have a reservoir of content to work from and you'll find it much easier to maintain a consistent posting schedule even at times when you might be really busy or find yourself faced with a bit of writer's block.
End Your Blog With a Call to Action
Whenever you write a new blog post you should be asking yourself what it is that you want the reader to do at the end of reading your article. Is your goal for them to:
- book a phone consultation with you
- register for a webinar
- download a free eBook
- download a content upgrade that expands on the information in the blog
- something else
Whatever the goal is, you should have a clear call to action at the end of your blog which encourages the reader to take the desired action.
I hope you've found this article useful and that it has given you the confidence to start your own company blog or given you some ideas for how to improve your existing blog.
If you'd like to get some 1-2-1 advice about your own blog I'd love to have a chat with you and give you some inspiration. Just click this link to book a call with me (that's the call to action for this blog, by the way!).