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Everyone is a blogger these days. While two decades ago, it was inconceivable that your local hardware store would be posting regularly, it is now impossible to think it would not be. How else would you know how to refit those loose cabinets?
Creating a blog is easy. Free and paid templates are plentiful. Set-up is done in minutes. This, however, is just the beginning. Everything on your blog, from layout to fonts to colors to image choices to topic decisions, should be purposefully selected to best support your brand and foster readership and conversions. So, where do you start?
Why does your business need a blog?
First, clearly delineate a set of goals for your blog. Creating a blog just because it feels like you should is not enough. Blogging can be beneficial to businesses in several ways, and your goals may include:
Getting customers to your website
Cultivating interest and authority
Testing new ideas
Building long-term loyalty
Creating multi-use content
More than one of these goals may apply to you, or you may be able to name others that fit your business specifically. Narrow your goals to a realistic set, then pick topics that purposefully support those goals.
For example, a business in the legal services industry is less likely to have the goal of direct conversion from a blog than one selling a specific tangible product. Therefore, a law firm’s blogging strategy might aim to drive traffic, increase authority, provide useful information for those researching lawyers and foster long-term growth rather than direct client acquisition.
What information should you provide?
Once again, the answer to this question is highly dependent on your industry and goals. Generally speaking, however, your posts should either solve a common problem your customers have or provide original insights about your field — or both.
REI Co-op’s blog, Uncommon Path, is an excellent example of how topic selection can support a brand’s personality and mission while providing information that is helpful to a wide range of potential customers. Topics like national parks accessibility and the best places to see stars mingle with product reviews and recommendations, providing visitors with a way to find adventure and, of course, the gear to use while doing so.
While your business may not have the resources of a giant like REI, your team can put its heads together to create topic inspiration lists like:
Common problems your customers face
Common questions your customers ask
Information not directly related to a product that would interest target audience segments
Products you can review
People within your industry you can interview
Remember, with the exception of breaking business news, your blog is about your customers, not you. Plan a realistic topic schedule in advance, and stick to it. If you can only post a couple of times a month, then make those posts count. Quantity is not always the winning strategy.
If you have relevant lead generation tools, like ebooks or resource downloads, include calls to action within your posts to maximize effectiveness.
Are you publicizing your blog?
Posting regularly will help build out your stock of indexed pages and contribute to internal link-building, both of which provide an SEO boost. However, to get the most out of the time invested in your blog, you must also publicize your posts.
Using social media can help you maximize every piece of content while getting a promotional boost. Blog content can be repurposed into videos or chopped up into short infographics to be posted on social accounts. For B2B companies, LinkedIn offers a good platform for sharing links to recent pieces. A set or series of blog entries could also be packaged into an email newsletter or used to create an ebook download, both of which are lead-generation engines.
Always follow best practices when publicizing posts. Spamming and comment hijacking are annoying and potentially harmful to your reputation.
Does design affect conversion and readership?
You have articulated your goals, developed high-value topic lists and agreed on posting frequency. How should you present all this information to the world?
A blog’s design can affect readership and lead generation. Blog navigation should be straightforward, and visitors should be able to easily read articles. Layouts that are confusing and cluttered or copy that is hard to read will not deliver repeat readers or loyal customers. Be attentive to the following layout elements:
1. Fonts: Research on the most readable fonts is mixed, and there is no hard rule about the best fonts to use for headlines or body copy. In April, the Nielsen Norman Group published the results of a 2022 study on font readability that confirms this. Beyond its main finding that there is no single right answer about the best online fonts, it found:
People read their fastest font an average of 35% faster than their slowest.
Fonts that performed best for older readers, those over 35 in this study, differed from the best performers for younger readers. If your designers are under 35 and your target audience is over 35, what is good for one is not best for the other and vice versa.
People are not good at picking their easiest-to-read fonts. Subjects read an average of 14% faster in their fastest font compared to their preferred font.
Don’t panic, however, readability best practices do still exist, which include:
Set a minimum font size of 18 points.
Pay attention to the amount of space between lines of text.
Establish a text hierarchy between headlines, subheadings and body copy.
Use consistent link colors and hover effects.
2. Segmentation: Here, I am referring to content segmentation rather than audience segmentation. On average, a visitor will read about a quarter of the copy on any given page. Visitors are scanning, and your job is to make scanning easy. You can do this by:
Limiting paragraphs to one to three sentences
Breaking up copy with headlines
Using bulleted lists and images to support main points
3. Image selection: Image selection matters for several reasons. Consistent, quality images support your brand’s personality and culture and can even attract potential customers to your aesthetic. Businesses that use imagery consistently will cultivate a style that is recognizable in any setting.
Creating a mood board is a good way to ensure graphics are used consistently. A mood board is a collection of items, including but not limited to photos, that are representative of your brand’s style. You may also consider creating a list of things explicitly not allowed in blog photo choices. Once you have selected images for your posts, always remember to optimize them for web use so that they don’t slow your page load times.
If you have decided it’s time for your business to start blogging, make the effort to cultivate a blog that enhances and supports your brand. A little time investment can produce outsized results.