On the internet there is lot written about starting and improving a blog and about content marketing. Often it is mixed but a blog is a helpful tool for Content Marketing.

The first question to answer is:
What is a blog?

A blog (a truncation of the expression web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first) (source: Wikipedia).

So,this a definition which means that mainly the structure is defined (the way of publishing a “posts”) but is the content (text, pictures, movies etc) is free.

The second question to answer is:
What is a Content Marketing?

Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc (source: Wikipedia).

Content-marketing-cloud

If you use a blog as a tool for Content Marketing it means that you are publishing content on a blog in order to acquire customers. Acquire customers is a long term target so don’t expect that after starting a blog you will have your first new clients next day (although it depends from the product).

To start immediately with the challenge of Content Marketing. In one of my previous post Review: Why Content Marketing Fails, Rand gave the main reason:
You Made Content Without a Community

Rand also gave some tips how to make content for a community:

  • Content Spreads Because It Inspires a Community
  • It Reinforces a Belief
  • Refutes an Opposing Argument
  • Starts (or Renews) a Passionate Discussion
  • Is in Someone’s Financial/Promotional Interests
  • Leverages Group Inclusion Dynamics
  • Makes the Sharer Look Smart/Important/Worldly/Etc
  • “Good Enough” Content Often Performs Well when a Community Is Behind It
  • Only the Best 0.1% of Content Can Go “Viral” without a Pre-existing Community

Rand is focusing on Content Marketing, which means he focus on acquiring customers. Now we filter some tips from the pure bloggers which are very useful for Content Marketers with a blog. Belle Beth Cooper (@BelleBCooper) wrote 16 Top Tips from Blogging Experts for Beginners. The tips are general for a blog and not specific for a blog for content marketing to acquire customers but also important in engaging customers is being yourself, so the tips are very use full too. The most useful tips are marked italic.

1. Get ideas from your audience

Create blog posts that answer the most interesting questions from people you engage with on social media.

Dave Larson, founder of @tweetsmarter

2. Understand your audience

Understand your audience better than they understand themselves. It takes a lot of upfront research, and often means being a member of the very tribe you’re trying to lead – but it pays off.

Brian Clark, founder and CEO, Copyblogger

3. Write for yourself first

Write for yourself first & foremost. Ignore the fact that anyone else will read what you write; just focus on your thoughts, ideas, opinions and figure out how to put those into words. Write it and they will come.

Adii Pienaar, founder of PublicBeta

4. Build your email list

Start building your email list from day one. Even if you don’t plan on selling anything, having an email list allows you to promote your new content to your audience directly without worrying about search rankings, Facebook EdgeRank, or other online roadblocks in communications.

Kristi Hines, freelance writer and professional blogger

5. Love your existing readers

Love the readers you already have. A lot of bloggers get quite obsessed with finding new readers – to the point that they ignore the ones they already have. Yes – do try to find new readers but spend time each day showing your current readers that you value them too and you’ll find that they will help you grow your blog.

Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger

6. Focus on building an amazing call-to-action

7. Give stuff away

Give away free content that adds value to people’s lives “until it hurts” and they will love you and become loyal fans.

Jeff Bullas, blogger and author of Blogging the Smart Way

8. Be consistent

Consistency is one of the most important things that bloggers tend to forget. It’s much easier to lose your traffic than it is to build it up, so make sure you consistently blog.

Neil Patel, founder of KISSmetrics

9. Give away your knowledge

Stay true to yourself and your voice. People don’t care to follow sites so much as they care to follow people.

Chris Pirillo, founder and CEO, LockerGnome

10. Be true to your voice

Stay true to yourself and your voice. People don’t care to follow sites so much as they care to follow people.

Chris Pirillo, founder and CEO, LockerGnome

11. Give it time – This is why

Plan to invest in blogging for a long time before you see a return. The web is a big, noisy place and unless you’re willing to invest more over a greater period of time than others, you’ll find success nearly impossible. If you’re seeking short-term ROI, or a quick path to recognition, blogging is the wrong path. But if you can stick it out for years without results and constantly learn, iterate, and improve, you can achieve something remarkable.

Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz

12. Give your email list priority

If you’re blogging to create a business, a movement, or to support a cause, then you need to build an email list. It’s not an option. I don’t even consider my blog to be my community, my email list is my community. Caring about these people, writing for them, and delivering value to them should be your number one goal.

James Clear, entrepreneur, weightlifter and travel photographer

13. Write catchy headlines

No matter how great your content is, it won’t matter unless you have an amazing headline. People have a split second to decide if they should click on your post, and your headline will make them decide. The headline is also essential in making it easy and desirable for people to share your post. Keep your headlines SPUB: simple, powerful, useful and bold.

Dave Kerpen, author and CEO of Likeable Local

14. Be Yourself

There isn’t one specific set of rules to be successful in blogging. When I started blogging, I had the opportunity to learn from experienced and successful bloggers in the industry. One of the best lessons I’ve learned from them is to simply be me. I didn’t have to be too “professional” or use “big words” to impress others. I had to simply be me.

By being me, I enjoyed writing and the process more. It had me writing more than I usually would too. If you look at the the most successful writers like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan you’ll notice that they are different and unique in their own ways.

Aaron Lee, social media manager, entrepreneur and blogger

15. Keep it short

A blog post is like a miniskirt.
It has to be short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the subject.

Joe Pulizzi’s blog post, “A blog post is like a miniskirt”

16. Make it worth referencing – here is how:

One thing I always try to keep in mind before publishing a post is would anyone want to “cite” this for any reason? Just like interesting research is great because it leaves you with a fascinating finding or an idea, I like for my posts to be the same. That doesn’t mean relying on research, but simply making sure each post has an original lesson or actionable item, making it “citable” on the web.

Gregory Ciotti, marketing strategist at Help Scout

Another very useful article for blogging is 35 Blogging Tips to Woo Readers and Win Business, written by Henneke on Copyblogger. It is more focused on acquiring customers. Below the tips with the italic marked tips that are the most usefull:

How to streamline your content creation?

  • Commit to a publishing schedule. Plan it so that it works for you and for your readers. Don’t overstretch yourself. You don’t have to publish daily.
  • Keep a list of blog post ideas. Whenever clients ask you questions, add them to your list.
  • Outline your posts. Because it prevents you going into myriad irrelevant directions, and speeds up your writing and editing.
  • Follow proven blueprints. Don’t waste your time reinventing the wheel. Most blog posts follow straightforward structures.
  • Start writing early. The best content evolves over time.
  • Have a spare post ready for publication. For when life overtakes.
  • Use a kitchen timer. It will help you focus. Write for 30 minutes before rewarding yourself with a brief walk or a cup of tea.

How to woo readers with your content?

  • Know your audience. Understand their desires, their secret wishes, and their dreams. Learn about what they’re struggling with, so you can help.
  • Define your blog’s purpose. Decide who you want to help to achieve what. On my blog, for instance, I teach small business owners to create persuasive content so they can win business.
  • Don’t chase clicks with hyperbolic headlines. Write for your clients and prospects, not for faceless clicks. In the words of Tom Martin, “Chase customers, not clicks.”
  • Don’t be afraid to alienate some. Develop a stronger bond with the people who are right for your business.
  • Study the masters. Learn what makes content boring or riveting by analyzing other blog posts.
  • Write when you feel enthusiastic. Because your energy is contagious.

How to create a must-read blog?

  • Have a strong opinion. True leaders aren’t afraid to tell you what they think.
  • Cross out the buts, ifs, and maybes. Eliminate the phrase in my opinion — because it’s obvious it’s your opinion as you’ve written the post.
  • Skip common sense and shallow list posts. Always add value. With every blog post you publish. With every paragraph you write.
  • Stop worrying about giving stuff away for free. Write in-depth, tantalizing tutorials to give away your most valuable ideas — because that’s how you gain leads and win clients.
  • Quote industry experts in your posts. It shows you know your field.
  • Scrap jargon. Explain your ideas in simple words.
  • Use examples and case studies. They show your in-depth understanding of a topic, and they liven up your content.
  • Show up. Regularly. With quality content.

How to keep your readers hooked week after week?

  • Empathize with your readers. Understand what they’re struggling with, and promise a solution to their problems.
  • Don’t waste your most valuable tips with drab subheads. Write strong subheads that arouse curiosity, or promise a benefit to reading the next section.
  • Allow readers to get to know you. Share tidbits of your life, but always remain focused on helping your readers.
  • Sprinkle questions over your content. Because it makes readers feel you’re having a conversation.
  • Inspire your readers with your close. Your final paragraph should overcome their objections to implementing your ideas.
  • Treat your readers like dogs. (In a nice way!) Reward them with a cookie — or useful tip — in each of your blog posts. Be generous.
  • Learn how to get your ideas humming around in your reader’s head. You do this by writing memorable sound bites.
  • Create a unique voice. You want readers to come back to “hear” you … and they should miss you when you’re not there.

How to spread your ideas?

  • Start an email list. Over time, your email list will drive the most traffic to your blog.
  • Warm up new subscribers. You do this with an autoresponder series. Build relationships and bond with your readers by emailing more frequently when they sign up.
  • Write short emails. Encourage readers to click through to your posts. Highlight a problem they recognize, and promise a solution in your blog post.
  • Optimize your posts for SEO. Said another way, optimize your content for discovery and conversion. That’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?
  • Create a social sharing checklist. Here’s how. Engage your audience on your favorite social platforms. Don’t try to be everywhere.
  • Guest blog to grow your audience. Because it’s the quickest way to raise your profile and gain an audience.

Lessons Learned:

Blogging is an easy and an accessible way to start with Content Marketing. Make clear targets, try/test all kind of possibilities and take the time to get results. It is not a fast way to get new clients but it is the future to lead your client during his customer journey. It is the future of creating (online) brands. And don’t be afraid to give knowledge or stuff away.

AND do not forget:

A blog post is like a miniskirt.
It has to be short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the subject.
Joe Pulizzi’s

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