Blogging started as a cool way to put your diary online for all the world to see. These days it is used far more by companies and brands to engage with their followers. Let's spend a few minutes giving you the tools you need to succeed at creating a blog for your business.
There are several components to business blogs:
- The content and components of a blog post
- The automatic push of new content to subscribers
- Engagement with your following
We're going to take a little time with each one of these so that you know where to go from here. We'll also get into the details of content strategies, email performance, automatic email setups, and subscriber engagement for Free and Pro members.
- 1 Blogging Content
- 2 Components of a Blog Post, The "Blog Box"
- 3 Blog Images, Graphics, and Videos
- 4 Blog Subscriber Push
- 5 How To Grow A Following
- 6 How To Create A Blog Strategy
- 7 How We Automatically Send Blogs To Subscribers
- 8 How We Measure If Subscribers Like Our Blog Emails
- 9 How We Create And Track The Creation Of Blog Content [Pro]
- 10 How We Measure If Subscribers Like Our Blog Posts [Pro]
Business blogging is generally considered to be articles on a website that somehow relate to what the business or organization does. In the case of the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation, their blog is focused on telling the stories of the kids, soldiers, and volunteers whose lives are touched by their awesome events. In the case of the Balloon Professionals Magazine blog, the focus is on speaking to real situations balloon design businesses face. The focus of your blog will vary based on the audience and the message you want them to have.
We go on to talk about content strategies and topics later in this post so I want to give just one word of caution here. A business blog is about telling stories, not hard selling something. That said, there should always be a call to action. So, a product review doesn't fit. But a story about someone who used a product and whose life was transformed... perfect.
Now, if you followed the links to the example blogs you noticed that the Balloon Professionals Magazine blog is actually a "VLOG". What is that you ask? Well in a VLog the central piece of content is a video, rather than a written article. We still share it in the same format on the website but you can see that the focus is definitely different.
Here on the AssetLab Academy blog, we focus on creating content that helps you do better at online marketing. For now, it is article focused. In the future, it will likely change to a video format or podcast with a supporting article. The point being here, a blog doesn't need to be focused on words on a page as the primary piece of content. You can choose the best way to reach your audience with the message and then put it in a "blog box" to share it.
One more thing to say about blogs up front... they should always have a call to action. Here are some examples:
- Ask the reader to subscribe to the blog
- Ask the reader to share the blog
- Ask the reader to consider purchasing a product
- Ask the reader to consider donating to your organization
- Ask the reader to share on social media
Components of a Blog Post, The "Blog Box"
The "Blog Box" as it was referred to earlier is a set of content that people expect to see when they visit a blog or read a blog post. These are the things readers generally expect:
- Written content... the article
- One or more images or graphics
- The ability to subscribe to receive notifications of new posts
In addition to these you may set a precedent by using other types of content too, like:
- Videos (maybe even a VLog in a "Blog Box")
You ultimately get to choose what goes into a standard blog post for your business.
Blog Images, Graphics, and Videos
At a minimum, all blog posts should include the article and an image. You may choose to do more and provide a graphic for each post (these do well on Pinterest). You may incorporate videos from other people on related topics. You may create a video specific to each post. You may create a podcast. There are so many things you can do.
In this section, I want to focus on the images and graphics.
The biggest hurdles to using great images and graphics are:
- "I don't have any professional grade images that match this topic"
- "I don's have an easy way to create graphics"
The images are really easy to solve these days. One day I was reading a blog post from my lawyer and the image was next-level. It was so good I actually noticed how good it was. Then, at the bottom of the post was an image credit with a link to where they found the image... and it was a website where I could find free-to-use images too! Here are the two I use the most. Be sure to read the information about licensing and image credit so you don't break the copyright laws.
Blog Subscriber Push
One of the most important aspects of hosting a blog is notifying people of new blog posts. This is how your readership grows (because people share) and you build a community (because people read). No matter what else you do with your blog making sure people who want to get your latest stories get an email or text or Facebook Messenger ping about the latest post is critical.
Your business may have other newsletters and email lists. The blog should have its own email list. You can send other information to this group as well... but these people want something special from you! The Blog Content!
We go into how we handle this at AssetLab Academy later in this article.
How To Grow A Following
Blog followers (which we also call subscribers) are people who want to receive a specific type of content on a regular basis. For example, at AssetLab we are really into online marketing so we subscribe to various blogs that share expert content, tips, tricks, and what is changing in the field. We prefer that these blogs come out with new information on a periodic basis because that gives us a predictable cadence to learning and experimenting. Now, we don't subscribe to blogs about American Football because that isn't what we're interested in. So, as long as the blogs we follow stay on topic and keep providing excellent content we will allow them to continue emailing us their latest posts.
We find the blogs we follow through google searches for the expert content. We also find them through social media. We also hear about them from others in the online marketing field.
So, the basic steps to growing a following are:
- Create content of value
- Published on a predictable schedule
- On a website that ranks well in Google search
- With a mechanism to notify people who want to subscribe
If the blog is hard to find then people won't come.
If the blog isn't great content then people won't subscribe.
If there isn't a way for people to subscribe then its following will always be small.
If the schedule of posts is irregular, more people will unsubscribe.
So, take the time to create great content on a predictable schedule on a website that Google loves with a mechanism that allows people to subscribe and your following will grow over time.
How To Create A Blog Strategy
Now that you have an understanding for the basics of a Blog, how they work, what to create, and how to build a following we're going to spend some time getting specific on how to create a Content Strategy. Content Strategies identify the audiences, messages, and call to actions that you want to reach. With this sort of strategy, you can start creating a pipeline of blog articles for eventual publishing to the subscribers.
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Defining The Audience
The first component of your blog strategy is identifying the audience for your content. You want to be as specific as possible so that when it comes time to create individual posts it is easy to understand who you are speaking to. It may be the case that you have more than one audience but realize that every audience you add makes it harder to stay on message and convert people to the call to action.
Here are some example audiences:
- Owners and managers of 1 to 10 employee businesses who want to generate more local business through relationships and local marketing (for a chamber of commerce)
- People who own balloon decor businesses in the United States and Canada who want to grow their business and build their design toolkit (for a balloon decor business blog)
- Fishermen with boats who would like to make a big difference in the life of a child by volunteering their time and expertise to take a kid fishing one morning per year (for a fishing charity)
You can get a lot more specific than these three... Please don't be more general... it is so much harder.
Now, write down a description of your audience.
Identifying The Messages
Now that you know who to speak to with the content it is time to identify the messages you want to share. By deciding on the messaging up front all the content that is created for the blog is focused on these central themes (aka messages).
To identify some messages to consider as "The Messages" start with a brainstorming activity. Just start writing down ideas for what you want to communicate to your audience.
Safety Tip: This isn't a list of articles. These are possibilities for the underlying theme of many articles.
- Joining a chamber of commerce is a great way to meet local business owners and managers, to market my company, and to learn from others about what is working in their businesses (chamber of commerce blog)
- I can take my business to the next level by learning these skills and techniques in running my balloon business and creating balloon decor (balloon decor business blog)
- Taking kids with special needs fishing is something I can do, that I'm going to genuinely enjoy, and something that can change the life of a child (fishing charity)
Write down your 1-2 messages.
Creating Calls to Action
Every blog post should include some sort of call to action. This may be direct or indirect, a hard sell or a soft sell. Take some time to list the one or two calls to action that you want to focus on. This can change over time, so you're not stuck, but you need to be ready to commit to this for a few months at least.
Note: The reason this is powerful to do up front is that it helps you and your team understand where the blog content falls in the sales funnel. It may be something you're using to upsell existing customers. It may be something you're using to recruit new subscribers. It may be something you're using to sell people a service. Whatever it is... understanding where this fits in the sales process is critical.
- Subscribe to the blog to get expert content every Monday
- Get a free consultation by subscribing
- Get a free _____ when you purchase $___ worth of product
- Please take just a minute to share this article with someone you know who would love to read it
Write down what you choose to go with.
What Content To Share (What's in The "Blog Box")
Now that you know who you're speaking to, what you want them to understand, and the call to action you're going to focus on it is time to identify the types of content that will best communicate these things. There are so many possibilities. Take the time to think about each, consider what the target audience wants from you, consider how effective the call to action will be for each, the effort to create each. Write down what you decide.
How We Automatically Send Blogs To Subscribers
There is a very straightforward cookbook for setting up an automatic email push to subscribers on a daily or weekly schedule when new content is published that we use at AssetLab Academy and AssetLab Marketing. In this section, we give you the exact steps to set it up and various considerations for the technology you're already using.
This is AssetLab Academy Member content!
We base our subscriber push for clients and AssetLab academy on MailChimp. The reason is that MailChimp has a feature where you can set up a template email and them MailChimp will monitor an RSS feed for new content. If new content is detected, the email is put together and sent to subscribers, automatically. And you can do this for up to 2000 subscribers for FREE!
Before you jump down this path you need to determine if it will work with your website and the other systems your business uses to interact with subscribers. Adding another system isn't cost-free for your business, particularly if you need to integrate it with other systems. If you need help evaluating this solution please get in touch.
- Website Blog RSS feed
- MailChimp Account & List
- MailChimp Subscription Box
- MailChimp Campaign (email template)
Website RSS Feed
Our technology stack is generally based on WordPress and as such, an RSS feed of the content is provided as part of that platform. If the business website your company uses is something other than WordPress this may be harder to set up.
For WordPress websites simply add "/feed" to the website URL to get the RSS feed.
MailChimp Account Setup
Creating an account is easy, just go to MailChimp.com. One the account is setup create a List called "Blog Subscribers"
MailChimp Subscription Box
This is what is placed in the sidebar of the website that lets people add themselves as a subscriber. In MailChimp, you get this by clicking on "Signup Forms" for the specific list you want to add people to.
Next we set up the template email and connection to the RSS feed that will result in an email being sent to subscribers.
- In MailChimp
- Click Campaigns
- Click the "Create Campaign" button
- "Create an Email"
- Then, click "Automated"
- Now select "Share Blog Updates"
- Select a name for the Campaign and the List you want to send the emails to
- Enter the RSS Feed URL for the website and the schedule for emails to be sent
- Choose the "Entire List" as the target group
- Now, continue to design the actual email template, which MailChimp guides you through
How We Measure If Subscribers Like Our Blog Emails
In this section, we cover the metrics you can use to understand if your subscribers like what you creating in your blog. Here we're focused specifically on the emails that get sent to them when there is new content. Later we also cover how to analyze how people interact with blog pages on the website.
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The metrics we use to determine if Subscribers are engaged are:
- Open Rate - The percentage of subscribers that opened the email
- Click Rate - The percentage of subscribers that clicked a link in the email
- Unsubscribe Rate - The percentage (sometimes a count) of subscribers that unsubscribed in this email
These three provide amazing feedback on the satisfaction subscribers are finding in the emails being sent to them. Let's cover each of these a little deeper so you understand what influences them.
Email Open Rate
Open rate is the percentage of people who opened the email to view it. This is primarily impacted by two things:
- The email subject
- The perceived value of the email based on past emails
A good open rate is above 65%. A bad open rate is under 30%. Now, these are generalizations so an individual situation will be different. The goal is to have a very high open rate.
For each email this number is available and so over time, it would be great to see it go up for an email list.
Email Click Rate
This is the percentage of people who received the email, opened it, and then clicked on one or more links in the email. This is an absolutely critical metric to watch. If people are receiving and opening the email but not clicking on a link then they are not perceiving that there is additional value in the individual blog posts in the email... that is really bad. That said, the reality is that a lot of factors influence whether people have the time to go further.
So, watch for good numbers and when there is an email that gets a great number, do more of that.
The goal is to get above 5%.
These are the people who decided they are done with the content and don't want it to land in their Inbox anymore. Every unsubscribe is a loss and you should take it personally. Now, that person may not have been in the target audience any longer, and so in that case, it's no big deal. Watch out for people unsubscribing because they don't think they're getting what they want or the value isn't high enough.
If an email has a particularly bad (high) rate try to figure out why and don't do that again.
The goal is to be under 0.1% in any given email.
How We Create And Track The Creation Of Blog Content [Pro]
In this section, we give you the exact (free) tool that we use to create a content calendar and move every post and piece of content through authoring, editing, and publishing. You can do this as an individual or as a team and everything works great.
This is AssetLab Academy PRO content!
We've tried to use Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, sticky notes, whiteboards, and emails. Then we found something far superior for managing the creation and publication process for content: Trello
Trello lets you create a "card" for each article, assign people to it, describe it, collect content for it, and move it through the workflow that works for your business or organization. And, it is free to use. We actually use Trello for managing day to day and team tasks. And, you can integrate it with all sorts of other tools.
Take a look at an example of our content board here: AssetLab Academy Content Calendar
If you like it, you can simply copy the board, make it your own, share it with your team... and you have just stolen a great tool :-).
How We Measure If Subscribers Like Our Blog Posts [Pro]
We covered the three critical measurements to watch and learn from for emails blasted out to blog subscribers. Now we cover how to understand if people visiting a blog page actually consider the post valuable.
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We use a toolset called Sumo to monitor clicks and scrolling on pages on our websites and for clients of AssetLab Marketing. Sumo works with many website technologies and has a simple Plugin for WordPress websites.
With a free account you get access to two amazing features:
- Heat Maps - Which show where people click on a page
- Content Analysis - Which shows how far visitors scroll down the page
To see these you simply turn on the Heat Map or Content Analysis overlay and color is drawn over the website page so you can see where people interact or how far they scroll. When we do this for clients for the first time it is generally a surprising and eye opening experience for them to see what people actually do!
Sumo is FREE and there are paid levels for advanced features.