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Larry Madill

5 Questions You Should Ask Before You Start A Blog

Larry Madill
5 Questions You Should Ask Before You Start A Blog

“So, what kind of SEO tactics are you using to drive traffic and earn links?” “Oh, we are blogging.” “Oh okay.” “We are creating blogs with good, unique content because Google loves good unique content.” “Right. But what are you doing to promote your blogs? How are you gauging engagement and readership? What are you doing to make your blogs attractive as possible to earn editorial links?” “Um, no, no you see we are blogging.”

Insert silent scream here.

I have had this conversation hundreds of times in the past four years with SEO specialists and content marketers. Content marketing via on-site blogs seems to be the panacea tactic of marketers everywhere. While I think blogs can be an awesome tool, too often they turn into the Underpants Gnomes’ SEO Strategy:

  1. Add Blog to Client Site
  2. ?????
  3. Rankings and Success!

This type of content marketing strategy does not work, mostly because it is not a strategy. It is a prayer in a dark night, hoping that somehow links and traffic will find you because you published a blog.

Before jumping on the blog bandwagon you need a strategy and a direction. Here are 5 questions that marketers need to ask themselves.

What Are Your Goals?

Asking, “What are my goals? What are my client’s goals? And how will an on site blog enable me to achieve those goals?” is critical. Establishing goals and KPIs for your on site blog content removes the “???” from your strategy and provides a clear destination.

Having a set of goals also allows you to determine, before making a massive investment of time and resources, if blogging is the best tactic to achieve your goals. For instance, if your primary goal is link acquisition, blogging may not be your best option. Perhaps you can achieve this goal more efficiently by using more traditional link building techniques.

An on site blog is one tool in the marketing tool kit. Determining your goals allows you to determine whether it is the right tool for the job.

Have You Done the Basics First?

The reason why we create on site blogs is to drive awareness, create brand recognition, bring in traffic, earn links and achieve objectives like increasing conversions and creating new customers. A well-marketed blog is the first shot in a battle for consumer attention, but is your website is ready to win the war?

Have you done the basic on site optimization tasks first? Have you optimized your titles, descriptions, and tags? Does your internal link structure make sense and is your site easy to navigate? Are your images properly optimized? Is your robots.txt and sitemap.xml properly formatted?

Before you start any type of content marketing strategy you absolutely need to hit every checkmark on your on site SEO 101 checklist.

In addition, do a complete content audit to identify bad content that is already on a site. That could be duplicate content, thin keyword heavy content or content that is out of date.

You can spend days creating killer blog content only to have that work undone by content elsewhere on a site that is poorly written and not reflective of the brand identity of the company.

In many cases, an investment in better content on the home page and subpages of a site may pay more immediate dividends than an investment in creating and marketing blog content.

What Are Your Competitors Doing?

Chances are high that your competition is engaged in some type of content marketing campaign. Are your competitors creating blogs on their sites? How are they approaching their audience (which is also your audience)? What type of blog content are they creating?

Competitor analysis allows you to look at your market from every angle. Let’s say that your main competitors have not invested an ounce of time or money into blog creation.

You could conclude that your competition went through the same analysis process that you are doing now and decided that an investment in on site blog content was simple folly.

Or a deeper dive into your analytics and your market research might reveal a tapped audience that your competition has not reached.

Thorough competitive analysis can also help you avoid the “Me Too” space. You run a website for a water damage company and you think it is a great idea to blog about flood prevention? Guess what? So did all of your competitors, but none of your competitors are blogging about disaster preparedness. You can claim that topic your own and set your blog content apart from the competition.

Do You Have the Resources to Be Successful?

Gone are the days of buying metric tons of content for pennies on the dollar. Yes, you can still do it, but will that bottom of the barrel content achieve your desired goals? No. You cannot earn great editorial links and build an engaged readership on the foundation of outsourced content-farmed blogs.

If you want to stand out in a crowded space you are going to have to produce content that a reader simply cannot find anywhere else on the web. Content that offers a unique voice and a unique value proposition.

Make sure that you have the resources in place, both in terms of budget and manpower, to achieve your desired outcome.

How Do You Plan to Build Readership?

A blog without readers is a wasted content asset that offers little value. Before you add a blog to a website, make sure that you have a thorough plan in place to build readership for that blog.

There are a dozen ways to build readership, like:

  • Social posts on Facebook and Twitter
  • Smart use of sites like StumbleUpon and Scoop.it
  • Promoted posts on social channels
  • Content recommendation services like Outbrain
  • Outreach to influencers who can evangelize your blog to a larger audience.

The list of promotional ideas is virtually endless. The key is to pick an approach to building readership before your blog launches, and then execute and iterate on that plan.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking about launching a blog? Let us know in the comments.

Larry Madill is a freelance writer and content marketing consultant, based in Los Angeles, California. You can follow him on Twitter @larrymadill.

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