9 out of 10 startup blogs I find are squandering their blogging efforts, and it’s likely that yours is too. It frustrates me to no end that founders are missing out on great community and SEO building opportunities whilst wasting their time writing things people don’t want to read! So, in order to help others with their startup blogging efforts, below is a summary of what we have learned on how to blog and how we’ve acquired paying customers from it. TL;DR, Stop writing about yourself, create content that is useful for your target audience, and create positive feedback loops for analyzing blog performance.
Three weeks ago, our team was in a bind: We were getting 30 inbound clicks daily from organic searches, but global daily searches related to our product exceeded 30,000. We could also see that our competitors were ahead of us on every important keyword, and we could see that we would not survive the next six months if we did not move up in our ranking. Yikes! You may be in a similar situation to us. If you’re a startup with a sizable, distributed market, how is that market going to find you? Paying for users through adwords or display advertising can be prohibitively expensive, and we’re all bootstrapping. One of the most sustainable long-term strategies for organic growth is through building a reputation within a certain community, and simultaneously building a reputation with Google’s search engine. How? Content marketing, that’s how.
The History of Content Marketing
Content marketing has a rich history that extends far before the Internet. Started in the early 20th century, the Michelin Guides are one outstanding example of how far the content marketing concept can be taken, and demonstrates that great content marketing is neither spammy nor salesy. Michelin, a small French tire company, needed to get more people in cars and on the roads, so they started producing restaurant review guides. Their guides cultivated such a strong culinary following, that people started to flock to restaurants based on the guide’s rankings. Eventually, the guides helped build the reputation of Michelin’s global brand for what it is today. If one lesson can be learned from Michelin, it’s this: Solve a problem for your customers or target audience. Write posts that serve your audience.
What is “Great Content”?
Many of startups struggle to find content to post on their blog, so they write about some new features they pushed, their weekly progress, or maybe just a photo they took of the company dog. That stuff has exactly zero utility for your target audience, and it belongs on your company Facebook, not the blog. Imagine if Michelin had instead written a series of press releases about some new features they included in their next batch of tires. Nobody would read it. Drivers don’t care about the tire, they care about getting somewhere in their car, and if Michelin didn’t figure that out, they would still be a tiny French tire company. Like Michelin, you must identify your target audience and write content that caters to them, solves problems for them, and is generally useful. For example, our target audience consists of amateur and professional social media marketers. Our posts try to cater this audience, and our most successful posts have been ones where we propose interesting ways to improve your social media marketing. Having useful blog posts has two positive effects.
- Your target audience will find you when they’re searching for a solution to the specific problem you’re solving (e.g. “How to Find Any Email in Less than 2 Minutes“).
- Your company will gain a reputation among your target audience for being knowledgeable, and reputable about your core topic.
Both are critical in building a user/customer base, growing organically, and making your blog successful.
Luckily, coming up with ideas for blog content is easy when you approach it from the perspective of helping your audience. For example, here are some ideas for future blog posts off the top of my head for helping social media marketers:
- Juice keyword performance: Build keyword-specific landing pages
- Advice on scoping out competitors and discovering their SEO strategies
- The illusive viral loop: 5 reasons why virality is overrated
- Do testimonials move the needle? Our A/B test results.
See, it’s easy!
But, what makes a blog post “successful”? This is a very good question. One thing we learned from our previous failed attempts at a company blog is the importance of finding clear ways of gauging blog performance. Without feedback, it’s only natural to feel like writing in the blog is a waste of time, and updating it quickly becomes an afterthought. To get us revved up about blogging, we use Google Analytics to segment and track the behavior all visitors landing on each blog post, and for broader tracking we use Google Webmaster Tools to understand our overall keyword performance over time. We also made it a habit of taking screenshots of these graphs and emailing them out to the entire team on a daily basis.
By seeing how many visitors land on a specific post, from where, and what they do after they land has created a strong positive feedback loop that has pushed us to continue to create content. Everyone enjoys seeing that a blog post Not only that, it allows us to understand what kind of content is useful for our audience, so we can improve the performance of future posts. A startup blog should be a lot like a lean startup, continuously iterating based on audience feedback.
To Be Continued
Now that we’ve covered why you should be approaching your blog as a content marketer, Part 2 will elaborate on how exactly come up with content ideas, understand and utilize good SEO strategies, and go further into that data our team has collected in what kinds of blog posts work, and which ones don’t. Hopefully this post can help other startups out there improve their blogging skills. Let me know if you have any other content marketing tips/advice that I might have forgotten!