Your blog is a workhorse. Yes infographics and video are extremely popular at the moment, but a well written and informative blog that is consistently updated will never let you down.
You know the stats:
- Websites that include a blog have 434% more indexed pages and 97% more inbound links
- Blogging is the main component of the content strategy for at least 45% of marketers
- Marketers with a healthy blog element to their strategy are 13x more likely to see a positive ROI
- B2B marketers that include blogging receive 67% more leads than their non-blogging peers
- And more
As a business blogger, you’re aware of the basic best practices – keep paragraphs short, use descriptive headers and subheaders, break it up, keep it scannable, use bulleted and numbered lists – and you’re able to optimize for SEO (while avoiding the mistakes).
But what about engagement? You don’t just want visitors. You want engaged visitors. That includes reading your stuff, of course, but more importantly you want them to leave comments, share your posts with their social media networks, link back to your site, and return again and again. You want them to be unable to live without your blog.
Diversifying your blog content is one way. No one wants to see the same type of post on the same topic week after week. What would be the point? So mix it up.
Beyond that, there’s a lot you can do to give your business blog an engagement boost. I’m constantly amazed by the positive impact these ten tactics can generate. Try and see for yourself.
The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Small Business
1. Understand your audience and what they want
You’ve already identified your target, and hopefully even created a few buyer personas to guide your efforts. But you can do more.
This may not sound like an advanced strategy, but far too many blogs ignore the obvious. You have an industry related to your business, and that’s obviously your umbrella topic. But what specifically is your audience looking for in a blog about your industry? Find out.
Conduct surveys and polls to find the topics that matter. Tools like Qeryz, SurveyMonkey, and Google Forms can help (the last two require leaving your site, while Qeryz functions like a slide box or popup). The best way to find out what they want is to simply ask them.
Or identify their interests using Twitter Analytics. Click on Audience at the top, scroll down, and see the Top Ten interests of your Twitter followers.
That should give you at least a few solid ideas and broad subjects to write about this week.
2. Build better headlines
If your headline doesn’t pull them in, it doesn’t matter how great the actual post is because no one’s reading it. The headline is the promise, the post is the delivery… don’t FAIL them (you’ll lose credibility each time you do). To paraphrase the Godfather, make them a promise they can’t refuse.
Use keywords, power/emotional words, limit it to roughly 55 characters and 6-8 words, and remember that numbered lists, FOMO, questions, and how-to headlines perform very well.
3. Track the trends
What’s got people buzzing online? What’s already resonating with readers?
Find out what’s hot with keyword research, a quick visit to Google Trends, and a peek at both Facebook Trending and Twitter Trends on a fairly regular basis. If there’s something trending in your industry, visitors will want to read about it. Harness that.
4. Links, links, links
Your link architecture can lift your engagement in two ways (to say nothing of its SEO benefits).
Your internal structure – linking to other posts on your blog – helps your readers find your (relevant) best stuff.
Your outbound links point them to other valuable articles and resources.
Both develop your reputation as an unselfish blogger ready to help more than pitch. Visitors will respond to that. Guaranteed.
Try including a few similar articles using either Related Posts at the end, or littered throughout the text. They will click.
5. Talk to them
The simplest strategies are often overlooked.
Ask questions, encourage shares and comments, make it easy for them to connect with you.
Comments can be wonderful. They’re a form of social proof, so when readers see them at the end, they’re going to trust and engage with your content more than if they see none.
Remove friction like Captcha and other services meant to stop spam (they don’t), don’t require registration to leave a comment, and maybe even link directly to your comment form in the post. Make it easy, end with a question, and people are more willing than not to respond.
6. Go the extra mile
What are the popular posts in your industry? Find out with a simple online search, or using a tool like BuzzSumo.
Next, identify ways you could build upon those posts and make them better: updated, more visual, current stats, more extensive, interview an influencer or leader, include a video or infographic… it doesn’t matter. You build upon the already-successful post and improve it in some way.
Called the Skyscraper Technique, it can bring in plenty of traffic and engagement.
7. Promote and repromote
Most of us already share our new posts on our social media accounts. It’s Marketing 101.
Simplify that with an automation service like dlvr.it (“Share Better”).
But don’t stop there. Sharing just once is not enough. Consider:
- Facebook posts hit 75% of their impressions within 2.5 hours, and 75% of engagement within five hours
- A tweet’s lifespan is between 18-24 minutes according to most research
The vast majority of your audience will NOT see that share if you do it just once. Set up a reposting schedule for each blog post – twice on the first day, once daily for a few days, the next week, the next month, and then periodically after that at a minimum – to get your content in front of as many new eyes as possible.
8. A plugin for All seasons
There are nearly 48,000 plugins available for WordPress. You don’t want to go overboard, but a few well chosen ones can increase the usability and UX of your blog just enough to bump engagement to the next level.
A few good ones to try out:
- Inline Tweet Sharer, Quote Tweet, Click to Tweet, or TweetDis allow readers to easily share your most alarming, striking, or thought-provoking statement or statistic with one-click.
- Reading Time provides an estimated reading time at the top so visitors know beforehand how long it will take them.
- Atomic Writer analyzes audience engagement with your content to provide recommendations on how to write better posts for them.
9. Build a community
We all love being part of a group. Provide that feeling on your blog, and your readers will be happy to hang around longer and engage more.
Offer groups, discussion boards, and online portals. Let your readers reach out and connect with you and other users.
BuddyPress, for example, allows readers to create profiles, private message other users, create and interact in user groups, and more. And there are currently over 700 WordPress plugins available to customize the platform into whatever you need.
10. Give a little to get a lot
Try a giveaway. Create a contest or draw with upgraded content, discounts, coupons, or other prizes (your latest ebook, your favourite book by an industry leader, a free sample, free attendance at your next webinar, or whatever).
Giveaways are a great tactic to encourage engagement because visitors have to comment, share, or sign up in order to enter. And everyone loves free stuff.
Pay with a Tweet (despite the name, the service works with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ in addition to Twitter) requires readers to share a pre-made note and link to get access to something special.
KingSumo Giveaways makes creating a giveaway dead simple, and visitors earn additional entries for themselves with each new entry that signs up via their URL, so it promotes frenzied sharing (everyone wants to increase their odds). The plugin has worked amazingly well in generating interest, engagement, and email subscriptions.
Your business blog is an extension of your business. You should only ever post the very best that you can create, because anything less will reflect poorly on you and your brand.
Share cheap, irrelevant, unimaginative junk, and that’s what readers will think of you. If you take only one thing away from this post, take this: quality above quantity at all times.
But you know that.
These ten tactics – in addition to that golden rule – will increase engagement. It’s a given. Get involved with your readers. Give them what they really want, and a place to connect with each other. Gift them your best stuff for free.
Engagement comes to those who earn it.
Have we missed anything? What strategies have you implemented to boost audience engagement on your blog? What tips have failed you?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below:
Guest Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands, including Salesforce, Coca-Cola, Target and others, to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, his blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+and LinkedIn.