I recently had the pleasure of speaking at Go Inbound Marketing 2014, the biggest Inbound Marketing event in the Midwest.
It was a great event with lots of excellent speakers. My presentation was "Why Nobody Reads Your Corporate Blog" and I had a great experience sharing my presentation with the audience.
Below is the video of my presentation followed by the transcript. I hope it helps you optimize and improve your business blog. Enjoy!
Good morning. Real happy to be here. I'm Michael Reynolds with SpinWeb. We're talking about blogging. I'm not going to give you a whole big spiel about my company because you can find us online, and our website does all that for us pretty well, so look us up. You can grab this slide deck any time you want, now if you want or whenever, at SpinWeb.net/goinbound. You can download it there. It works fine on mobile, so you can always grab the slide deck there if you want to later.
A little bit about me. I appreciate the kind words, Jeremy. Those who know me know I love sushi a lot, like, a lot, so anybody ... sushi lovers in here? Miyagi’s in Indianapolis is my favorite, 96th Street. If you're not from Indy, go check it out if you get time. It's amazing. Get the diablo roll. It's fantastic. I also play the cello. I play tennis. Obviously, I'm a marketing and tech nerd, and again, our website's there. We do inbound-marketing websites and app development.
We are talking about blogging, specifically why nobody reads your blog. Now, if you have an awesome blog and none of these takeaways apply to you, great. You can rest assured that your blog is fantastic. You're doing great. Good to go. That's awesome. However, I'm hoping that some of you will have at least two or three takeaways that you can use as kind of a tune-up to your business blog. This is really thought of as really a tune-up to make sure that you can kind of move the knob, move the needle, turn the volume up on a couple things, and really optimize your blog to be more effective for you.
HubSpot tells us some good metrics, some good stats that business blogging works. It makes sense. It leads to more website traffic, more leads. How many of you here are with companies that publish a business blog on a regular basis, by a show of hands? Oh, not as many as I would hope. Okay. How many of you are tired of marketing people telling you you're supposed to blog? Ah, there we go. Thanks. Yeah. So, sorry, it works. We're going to keep telling you to blog. You don't have to. There's other things you can do, but when it comes to inbound marketing, there's a lot of tactics involved when you're putting a strategy together, and blogging is a really good foundation for all of it.
It's a really good common foundation that kind of ties the pieces together, that really builds a good content foundation, and generates leads and generates business, and we have proof. HubSpot has tons of case studies that ... Here's our own. These are our leads from our own blog, actual sales from our blog. We have metrics showing this stuff works, that we actually have business from our blog, so it works. It may not work for everybody, but it works for us, and it works for a lot of people we work with, so I really believe in it.
How many of you here have tried blogging, but it didn't work, so you gave up, by a show of hands? A few. I see some heads nodding. Thank you for being honest. Some of you are lying. You’re not raising your hand. That's okay. I see this a lot. People say, "Oh, well, these marketing people shout at me to blog all the time. They say I'm supposed to blog and write articles once a week, and this will magically bring the inbound-marketing fairies to my doorstep, and I'll make a bunch of money." Right?
You blog for maybe a couple months, try it out, and you throw up your hands and say, "Well, it didn't work. I didn't get leads. I didn't get website traffic. Nobody's reading it." There may be some reasons for that, and hopefully, some of these things may ring true, and you may be able to have some takeaways here that can help your blog be more effective and perform better. Hopefully, that's the case here.
Why is nobody reading it? One, your blog is boring. Don't be offended. Some of us have boring blog posts sometimes, even us. I see a lot of blog posts written from the standpoint of a highly technical, really smart person writing content that is meant to teach. It's meant to educate, but it's written in such a way that it's so thick and so technical and so formal, and it goes through five layers of approval. A committee has to approve it, and the board has to approve it, and by the time it gets out there, it's just so boring. Nobody wants to read it, right?
The tone I recommend taking with your business blog is think of yourself sitting down with a friend over dinner explaining a complex concept. You wouldn't use super-formal language. You wouldn't use really thick complex terminology. You would just speak like a human, right? That's the tone you want to take on your blog. That is what gets people to actually want to read it and digest the information. Don't make it boring. Think about talking to your best friend over dinner. That's really the tone for them to take.
Next, your blog is a secret. Nobody knows about it. Obviously, I think most of us know that it's good to share your blog posts on social media. Share them more than once, though. A lot of times, I see organizations that post a blog, and maybe it's automatically posted to Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. Then they just kind of say, "Well, I've done my job. It's out there. That's it, right?" No, share it multiple times. Put it in your editorial calendar. Go back to previous blog posts that get a lot of attention and maybe are great topics. Bring them back so often, and share them over and over again. Not too much, but put them in your schedule.
Email them to clients. This is big. I see a lot of organizations that may have decent content, but no one in the company is sharing it. No one in the company cares. They're sharing it on social media, but there's sales people out there trying to make sales and trying to engage with prospects that are not sharing blog posts with prospects. Prospects ask tons of questions. Those all make great topics for your business blog, so why not take previous articles, apply that to your sales process? The sales people can have this huge library of blog posts they can then share with prospects to answer questions and demonstrate expertise and thought leadership.
Make sure your customer-service people use them. Customer-service people have to answer the same question all the time, right? Write a blog post; answer the question. Put that in your library. Put that in your customer-support system, so they can just send a link very quickly. Save them time. Make your customer-service process more efficient. Make sure people know about it. Don't keep it a secret. There's lots of avenues beyond just social media that you can use to share a blog post.
You don't do keyword research. This is not ... Well, let me take that back. I think it's fun because I'm a nerd. Allison, part of our team back there at SpinWeb, also thinks it's fun because we're nerds, but it's not fun for everybody. But it's pretty important because this keeps your blog tuned in the right direction. If you're doing keyword research, you're going to find search terms and phrases that your target market, based on personas, are searching on, and that gives you really good information to decide what topics to write about.
If you haven't done keyword research, there's some really nice tools to help you. There's a free one that Google has called Keyword Tool, so if you google Keyword Tool, you're find it. Use that. Ubersuggest, if you've never used it, go bookmark Ubersuggest right now. It's amazing. You can type in one or two-word phrases that apply to what your target audience searches on. It'll bring back sometimes hundreds of variations, and you can then plug those into your keyword tool.
We use HubSpot, for example, and you can get all sorts of data on what the most popular terms are, and that's the kind of stuff you want to go after. This is what helps you align your blog content with search and gets found on search. Those graphs I showed you at the beginning where we're showing leads and sales coming from a blog, they usually find us on search because we align our blog posts with the right keywords.
Maybe your blog lacks imagery. Maybe it has good content and good text, but there's never any photos. When you share your blog posts on social media and there's no photo or imagery there, it's kind of bland. Nobody wants to click because it's just kind of competing with everything else on Facebook, which includes pictures of kittens and all sorts of fun things, and your blog post has no imagery. That also applies to rich media. Embed videos. Embed media that goes with it and adds context.
One of my favorites: your authors are not people. What do I mean by this? Well, some people, they get really hung up on hiding behind their company name on their blog. They post an article, and it says, "Hey, blah, blah, here's the title. Author: Acme Corporation." Who wants that? Your blog should be written by a real person. By the way, Google agrees. Google agrees because they want you to tie authorship from your blog post to your Google Plus account.
So if you're not publishing your articles as real people, make sure the by-line says Bob Smith or whatever the name is there as a real person, links to their profile, and in your Google Plus profile, make sure that that person is correctly linking themselves as a contributor to your website via Google Plus. That way, Google knows where the authorship is, and then when you get found on search, you've got a nice little head shot next to the post, as well. It makes it look nice and results in higher click-through rates. So make sure your authors are people. It also humanizes it, so people actually feel like they're talking to a real person. That's important.
Maybe you're telling too many campfire stories. Campfire stories are posts that are, "When I was a kid," or, "Once upon a time, I did this," or, "Here's a story about a thing one time." They just drone on and on about this story, and they might get to a point eventually, but you may not get there because you're so tired of hearing this drawn-out campfire story. Sometimes, that will work, but I caution against doing this as the theme of your blog. You want to start posts with things like "how to" or "the best way to" or "is it bad to" or "why does." You want to teach. Don't reminisce. Teach.
The most effective blog posts, in general, that I've seen, always with exceptions, but in general with our clients, are ones that teach a concept, a very specific concept that solves a problem. Look for those problems that your prospects are trying to get answers to. Zone in on that; answer that question, and teach in that post.
Maybe your titles are vague. If you're Seth Godin, you can get away with a vague title all day long because you're Seth Godin. Am I right? But I'm not Seth Godin. Most of us aren't. We need to be very specific and very descriptive. So industrial stuff or business stuff or here's just kind of a topic out there as the title, that's not really going to get much attention. Now, I don't recommend selling your soul and doing Upworthy-style titles like, "This three-year-old started singing in public, and you'll never believe what the crowd did next." That's kind of selling your soul.
I wouldn't go that far, but I would try to be very descriptive and very specific: "how to do a thing by doing something else" or "the secret to" or "why a thing" or "getting the most out of something." Be very specific and tell people exactly what they're getting. People don't like to be surprised, or they don't like to think, "Well, that's vague. I'm not sure what I'm going to get if I click on that, so I'm not going to spend the effort." Tell them what they're going to get. Be specific.
Maybe you post once every three months. Let me get some hands up again. How many of you manage your ... or are with a company that publishes a blog, and you publish it once a week or more? Okay, good, quite a few. A few less hands, though; some of you are a little more sporadic. So that's good that you're publishing at least once a week or more. Now, again, there's always exceptions. Jeremy touched on some of this. It's not always about quantity. It's about quality, as well. There's different variations, but in general, if you are running a successful inbound-marketing program, you want consistency, and publishing on a consistent basis will help that. HubSpot again has data proving that blogging frequency does affect customer acquisition. HubSpot's crazy. They blog multiple times a day. It blows my mind, so it does help.
Maybe you make it hard to subscribe. I see a lot of great business blogs. They have some good content, but I go to put in my email address to subscribe, and I can't find it. I'm like, "Well, all right, I guess I don't know when they're going to put the next one out." A lot of people subscribe via email, via RSS, via email, via social media ... Oh, yeah, email and email, right? I harp on this because it's such an afterthought sometimes to so many companies. They don't have a way to subscribe via email.
By the way, this doesn't just apply to your blog itself. It applies to other parts of your website. For example, every time someone downloads an eBook or a form or fills out some form on your website, have a little checkbox there that says, "Would you like to subscribe to our blog?" “Yeah.” Check. Not everyone will check it, but we find that over half of people do check it when they download something from us, and we get a lot of subscribers to our blog that way just because it's an impulse-buy kind of thing. That's why you buy that candy bar at the check-out line. It's right there in front of you. Why not, right? So allow people to impulse opt into your blog. It'll really grow your readership from every landing page, every form you have.
Maybe you're selling too much. Maybe you're this guy. You don't want to sell on your blog. You want to occasionally link to things that help your company, but in general, you want to teach. You want to be very authentic and solve the problem. Don't sell. There's other places and times to sell in the process in inbound marketing. Blog is typically not your touch point to sell on.
Maybe you don't exchange guest posts. Again, Jeremy touched on this a little bit in terms of reaching out to influencers. It's really good to reach out to influencers, partner with them, have them write for you, you write for them. It's not an SEO trick. Google's clamped down on that for SEO tricks, but it's good for amplifying your audience: getting their audience to share your stuff; you share their stuff. It's a win-win, so find influencers to partner with.
Maybe you're not spending any money on it. Maybe you're this guy, and you say, "Well, my blog should be good enough on its own." Well, again, Jeremy talked about this before. Facebook has really clamped down on organic reach. Other social properties are probably not far behind, so take advantage of services like Outbrain, like [Print or Post 00:13:27], like Twitter audiences. Go ahead and spend a few bucks, and distribute your blog on paid media sources, as well. Outbrain's great because you can plug your RSS feed into Outbrain, and it'll just automatically just find readers for you in different media sites, and you can bring in some traffic that way and really kind of boost and accelerate your readership.
Now, all these things are things you could do today to fix very inexpensively usually with the exception of this one. If your website's ugly, that's going to take a little bit of an investment. I always like pictures of puppies, and they tend to please a lot of people, but if your website's ugly, this is going to play a part. If you have a website that is not mobile, not responsive, not mobile-optimized, it is ugly, not working, there's plenty of studies out there that have data showing that this affects conversion rates. It affects how people interact with your website. If your website's ugly, you've got to fix it. Otherwise, you're not going to gain trust. People are not going to subscribe. You're not going to gain readership.
I promised [inaudible 00:14:30] I’d speed up a little bit and be quicker because we're close to break, and I do not want to keep you from break, so with that, I hope that's given you some takeaways. I hope it really helps you kind of tune up your business blog and really help to kind of fix a few things that might be going wrong. Hopefully, it helps you optimize and really broaden your readership, help your blog be more effective, and hopefully, it's useful to you. Again, you can grab the slide deck online at SpinWeb.net/goinbound. It's a short form. It'll work on mobile. Grab it there. Always happy to follow up later, so thanks so much. I appreciate your time. Thank you.