Are 13 times more likely to see a positive ROI
Receive 67% more leads
Generate 97% more backlinks to a website
But we’re not talking about blogging for blogging’s sake. We’re talking about crafting quality content that speaks to the reader, that captivates and educates them.
Content that gets under the skin (in the best kinda way).
Download your 43-page B2B Blogging eBook. Simply fill out the form below, or continue scrolling to discover sh*t hot content tips and the best of the best practices behind some of your favourite B2B blogs.
This eBook looks at the ten essential elements of successful B2B business blogging...
Inbound marketing is about pull, not push. And B2B blogging is a major tool in achieving this. B2B marketers who implement a strategic game plan to blogging receive 67% more leads than those who do not. [HubSpot]
Blogging can help to drive traffic to your website. It generates 97% more backlinks [HubSpot] and assists the conversion of traffic into leads. It can also position you as an authority on your area of business, and drive long term results thanks to evergreen content.
B2B blogging is not rocket science - but it’s a discipline which has clear guidelines, both creative and technical. While 45% of marketers say blogging is the most important piece of their content strategy [Social Media Examiner], many are missing a trick when it comes to optimising results.
But this isn’t about random musings, the hard sell, or voicing your opinions on tenuous but topical subjects. It’s about creating carefully crafted, top of the funnel content which is aligned with your business strategy and educates prospective customers. Blogging is changing but it continues to endure in both popularity and effectiveness.
And businesses need to understand how to make it work for them.
So let’s get stuck in!
With over 70 million blog posts published each month on WordPress alone, it’s safe to say competition for readers is intense.
Brands that offer complex products and services are on a mission to create content that guides, nurtures and converts. These brands aren’t bought on impulse, their buyers take time to make purchase decisions.
B2B blogging has matured somewhat. For it to fulfil its purpose, articles must reflect the demands of an audience at each and every stage of the buying journey. And a well-oiled hub for written content sits at the heart of these efforts - there’s no doubt about it!
Brand marketers are investing more time and bigger budgets into content creation. Publishing frequency has skyrocketed by over 800% in the last five years. And yet, we’ve seen an 89% decline in engagement (TrackMaven).
Why? Because quality has suffered.
Marketers must wake up to the fact that the ‘more content means more exposure’ mantra is failing. There is far more to blogging than volume. It’s a practice in which the many participate - 80% of B2B marketers to be precise (Content Marketing Institute) - but only the few have mastered.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
A customer-centric mindset, along with innovative uses of data and technology, has made it possible for marketers to truly get to know their audiences for the first time. We know that buyers want value and clarity. But most importantly, they want content that makes them feel.
Quality takes time. But content creators are upping their game - make no mistake. Each post must be thoroughly researched, it must concisely articulate valuable information and communicate in a tone which connects with its intended audience.
Bloggers are supplementing snackable content - such as videos and infographics - with long-form blog posts that ooze substance and speak to readers on a deeper plane.
A mixture of the two is where the sweet spot lies.
Focus time and effort only on your most meaningful ideas. Ditch the filler content, cut the bullshit and give real answers to real people.
“Anyone can throw together some personal opinions or controversial remarks, toss in a few supporting stats or anecdotal examples, share it in a public forum, and call it a “blog post,” but that doesn’t mean it’s truthful, meaningful, or even valuable content.
Consumers want to trust their information sources and are increasingly expecting that content be rigorously researched, factually accurate, and worthy of their time and attention – meaning that it helps them make better decisions and confidently complete the tasks they need to get done.”
- Jodie Harris, Content Marketing Institute
Blogging is a tried and tested marketing tactic - a massive 81% of businesses report their blog as being critical to B2B lead generation (Nurture). But it’s no walk in the park.
Marketers who combine consistency, credibility and quality are ahead of the pack - and nailing down best practices (and a content workflow) will have certainly helped them get there.
As you move forward into our no-nonsense guide to crafting your next B2B blog post, it’s important to remember that every audience is different. Each will have an exclusive idea of what’s engaging, what’s helpful and what’s been a complete waste of their time (and yours).
Put the needs of your audience at the forefront of everything you create, flavour these blog writing best practices with your brand’s own eccentricities and - for all our sakes - make it meaningful!
When asked the secret behind the New Yorker’s iconic cartoons, Robert Mankoff simply responded ‘It’s not the ink - it’s the think.’
The message? Don’t rush into things.
Before you get those fingers flexing, you need be sure that what you’re writing is going to make an impact. What’s the purpose of it all? Start by outlining your goals for your upcoming blog post. Give it a reason to exist.
What are you trying to achieve?
Who are you trying to reach?
How are you going to engage and educate them?
What action do you want the reader to take?
Basically, how are you going to make this project meaningful? Because if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, there’s no way you can possibly know what to create.
Now take some time to get to know the subject you’re mounting an assault on. Find the questions your audience need answering, reinforce your own knowledge with desk research and uncover valuable sources of information to enhance your message.
Think about the tone of voice you’re going to use. Define the case, argument and/or solution you’re going to be putting forward. Consider how you’re going to differentiate this blog post from similar content out there already.
Getting your head in gear and laying the groundwork like this will make the writing process easier. This is about bringing direction to the process. It’s about finding the connection you’re going to make, and being absolutely clear on what you’re going to write, before you write it. So when the time comes, you can smash it out the park.
Because, as Mark Twain once said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”
“Figuring out what you want to say before you figure out how to say it is an obvious first step. But many writers tend to shortchange that step - instead they charge straight at the water and wade in, slogging through the surf until, pretty soon, they’re out of their depth and they’re flailing around wondering how they ended up there at all.”
- Ann Handley
There’s no better place to start. Keywords are crucial to the overall success of a blog. But that doesn’t mean trying to incorporate as many of them into the post as possible.
Long gone are the days where spamming random and irrelevant blog posts with keywords paid dividends. Google has grown up. And it crawls and ranks content in a very sophisticated fashion, darling.
Work out the ultimate objectives for your keywords before you identify which ones to use. For example, if you are selling a product, that might be your ultimate goal. Alternatively, they might be aimed at getting readers to sign up to a mailing list, or positioning your company as an authority on the subject. Know what you want.
Don’t get your knickers in a twist with Google
Google is smarter than you think - if that’s possible. And if, for example, you are a wholesale firm selling knickers and you try to squeeze several hundred mentions of ‘Brazilian’, ‘G-strings’ ‘thongs’ and ‘lacy high legs’ into 1600 words of copy, Google will find you out (as will your audience).
Five top tips for using keywords:
Research relevant long-tail keywords (for example, ‘digital marketing agency Glasgow’) and find one with a low difficulty rating (ie a high chance of ranking well)
Use a variation of your keyword in your blog post title
Use the same and similar phrases throughout the post - but avoid overkill/spamming
Include the keyword in your meta-description
Including the keyword - or something similar - in your URL slug (ie the exact url or specific page or post on your site)
Linking is crucial to any successful blogging strategy. These little puppies elevate both visibility and credibility, and give both your user experience and search engine rankings a nudge in the right direction.
Let’s explore the two types you need to know about...
The brass tacks of onsite content, internal links connect one page on your website to another on the same domain. Each one helps to define and build the architecture on your site, improve website navigation, distribute page authority, and boost relevancy for specific keywords.
Internal links give readers instant access to other relevant content on your website, and help search engines to crawl and rank your content on your website more efficiently. Some of your posts might be old, but they could still be gold. Link as deep as you can, sketch a map of your website if it helps, and connect your content.
Use ‘follow’ links to remove all barriers to search engines reaching your content. Avoid overkill and be sure to keep anchor text natural. Be reasonable. No-one knows the optimum number links to use in a blog post, however it should be obvious that overcrowded pages and superficial links will ruin the user’s experience.
“Internal linking requires a user-focused approach to adding value and information. The link value that gets distributed throughout the site is secondary to this key point — providing value to the reader.”
- Neil Patel
It might seem counterproductive, but you also need to be linking to sources outside of your website. Pointing outwards towards other sources from the word ‘go’ will, in-turn, bring added authority to your blog post. After all, it proves to the reader that you’re not just making this stuff up!
That’s not to say you should start linking out for the fun of it. Hunt for only the finest, most relevant and high-quality blog posts to supplement your own. Think of each link as a vote of confidence. There’s absolutely no shame in being fussy.
Worried about losing traffic? Don’t. You can always instruct your link to open in a new tab, as HubSpot explain: “Opening a link in a new browser window, as opposed to the window they are currently in (your website!) makes it less likely that a user will permanently abandon your website for the one you linked to”.
You can also assign nofollow tags to links if you don’t want want to give away any link juice. However it’s recommended that you don’t do this every time, as you’ll likely deter other sites from linking back to you in future.
B-LINK AND YOU’LL MISS IT:
For content marketers, linking is an easily actionable best practice that can make a big difference to the performance of your blog posts. It also helps to transform the way readers interact with your website, increasing dwell time and page views.
We could talk all day about why you should be using links. But in a nutshell, if you neglect to use them, and use them correctly, your content is going to suffer in the eyes of Google and the reader.
What is the first thing a reader will see? The headline. These are the words that will count the most. It needs to pack a punch. It needs to get to the point.
In just a split second a reader needs to know why this post will add value to them - and why time spent reading it will be more edifying and enlightening than scanning the Daily Mail’s notorious ‘sidebar of shame’…for that is just a click away.
In short, a headline will sell your content.
Don’t forget the mighty search engine
As well as including a carefully chosen keyword (or two), the headline also needs to be 65 characters or less to fit in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). In other words, anything longer than this will be cut off in Google’s search engine results pages.
And there’s no point being relevant, witty and clever if you are too wordy for your own good. Google will simply not put up with it.
So what should an effective headline achieve?
It should meet three criteria. It needs to:
Answer the questions the buyer might have about an issue or challenge
Offer practical advice, such as ‘How to’, Listicles (‘3 ways to…’), ‘A step by step guide to…’ etc…
Use concise, powerful, punchy language
But be mindful of how a reader consumes a blog post. For example:
80% of people will read your headline, while 20% will go on to read the post
Readers tend to focus on the first three words and the last three words
Consider clarifying what the reader can expect in brackets
Hubspot also advises clarifying the format of the post in the headline, to set and manage expectations. For example, if the post includes an infographic, the headline carries more weight if it reads ‘How brands can create a mind-blowing blog post [Infographic]’ than if it simply reads ‘‘How brands can create a mind-blowing blog post’.
Storytelling is an age-old art. It’s also an integral part of inbound marketing. Research shows that it can lead to 300% more readers, and they will spend 520% more time on the page.
Creating a compelling narrative means taking the reader on a journey. It means engaging them with thought provoking insights and unique viewpoints, while bringing such wisdom to life with real examples.
Look at your business from a different angle…
Whatever the subject, find a way to make readers care. Look at the challenges and the pain points, and the many war stories of businesses who have overcome the odds to achieve success. Or even to survive.
It doesn’t matter how dry your subject matter - from roof tiles to accounting software, baked beans to boxes - there is always a way to ignite it. After all, a reader probably doesn’t care about the dimensions and materials of the boxes you sell.
But they will be intrigued to learn about the company that saved money, boosted customer satisfaction and won over delivery drivers by using your boxes.
“…audiences are beginning to tire of the idea of content for content’s sake. Simply blogging to have a blog or updating social media for the sake of it won’t cut it anymore. You need to engage with your audience and tell them a story."
- Mike Templeman, forbes.com
Honing the human story
Stories which tap into the human side of the product or service will hook the reader into continuing. Finding this hook means looking beyond the company’s core offering and the key data sets. It means digging deeper than the latest press release for an angle.
Talk to employees and customers, ask awkward questions, get the lowdown from the chief exec, visit the factory floor. Stories are all around us if we only look.
Once you have the golden nugget, develop it. Set the scene for the post with an introductory narrative that:
Contains anecdotes from your experience or recent conversations
Features relevant fictional stories to grab attention
Anchors to a well-known story that will resonate with people
Incorporates pictures that are painted with words and tap into the senses
Uses metaphors that make the post more visual, more accessible
But don’t lose focus. Keep returning to your core objective, and root the story to what makes your readers tick. By getting to know your audience and creating content that appeals to their habits and interests (as well as their pain points) you can scale the quality of your leads and the rate of conversions much faster than those taking the blog for blog’s sake approach.
There is little point doing the hard work - unearthing the storytelling hook - if the ensuing content doesn’t deliver the goods. It’s a little like winning a penalty in football. Once you have placed the ball carefully on the spot, don’t blast it carelessly over the bar.
Are you delivering what your readers need?
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes - are they feeling inspired, informed, energised by what you are telling them? Or have they clicked on to a rival site? What do they want and need to know - and you are giving it to them?
Google is your friend…
Google has become more sophisticated in the way it crawls and ranks content. It uses over 200 criteria to decide whether your blog post deserves a high search ranking.
According to research from Buffer in October 2014, 74% of posts that are read are under three minutes long, and 94% that are read are under six minutes long.
Quality is king. Make sure the reader’s time is well spent.
Obsessing over word count could lead to a meltdown. Instead, ask yourself the following ten questions when crafting your content:
Is the content as up to date and as relevant as it can be?
Does it link out to good quality, authoritative third party sources?
Is the grammar and spelling correct?
Is the content on the page original?
Are you incorporating relevant multimedia, such as video and imagery, to enhance the experience?
Are you using bullets and numbered lists to break up the content and make it accessible?
Is the post bringing something new and useful to readers?
Does it encourage social sharing of key points?
Is the post sufficiently long enough to cover a wide breadth of information and potentially offer more value?
Is the content being regularly updated - with the latest supporting stats or new case studies for example?
But don’t skimp on the length of the post
Quantity is important too. Google loves long form content, so make sure yours goes the distance. Are you delivering what your readers need?
SERP data from SEMRush showed that longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results, with the average Google first page result containing 1,890 words. (source: Backlinko, Sept 2016). While searchmetrics put the sweet spot at anywhere between 1140-1285.
While these are great benchmarks to go by - you mustn’t live and die by them. If you can say everything you need to say in 800 words don’t cloud your message with filler content just to up the count.
4 top tips to remember:
But longer content doesn’t have to be daunting. Make it easier to access and scan by incorporating:
Humans are visual creatures. Indeed, the human brain is believed to process images 60,000 times faster than text. In addition, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
Visual social media platforms abound
Just look at the rise in the popularity of social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. We thrive on images. Because, in the words of Rod Stewart, every picture tells a story.
And if you don’t feel inclined to trust Rod - the stats support it:
Researchers found that coloured visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80% (HubSpot, 2016).
When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. But if a relevant image is paired with that information, people will retain 65% of that information three days later (HubSpot, 2016).
The image is a reader’s first impression
A blog post’s featured - or hero - image is the first picture the reader sees. And first impressions count. It will appear at the top of the page before any text. It’s also the image most likely to be pulled through in social sharing software like HubSpot.
Spoilt for choice? A good starting point is to look for an image that is faithful to the context of the blog post. It should also be eye-catching and avoid the impression that it has been randomly plucked from a generic photo library. Like the text, it needs to be highly relevant.
However, if you put the time in and do some digging on stock sites such as iStock and Shutterstock you will find quality visuals worth sharing.
There are two distinct contexts for the use of imagery:
Editorial - relating directly to the story at hand. Often the photo is the story
Conceptual - images intended to play off of a theme or idea, usually stock photos
Make the headline and the featured image complement each other. Use alt-text that corresponds with the post’s keyword so that Google can ‘read’ the image.
So you’ve got your feature image, but it doesn’t stop there.
Colour, action, emotion, beauty - a picture can convey so many things quickly and with huge impact. Strong images can evoke an immediate emotion - happiness, laughter, shock, disgust. It’s a key part of the narrative. It helps to engage and intrigue your reader.
Images also make content more appealing and digestible. They break up the text, draw the eye, add to the interest and help to consolidate and inform your content’s message.
Set the bar high
Thanks to technology, everyone is a photographer and/or filmmaker now. While digital cameras can make the most inept photographer look competent, smartphones with powerful cameras also enable people to shoot good quality images and videos on the hoof.
Be creative. If you can use your own high quality shots, do. They will allow you to be different, highly relevant and inventive. They will also enable you to ensure that your images reflect your overall brand. If not, consider commissioning photos to be taken to a very specific brief.
Look around at what competitors are doing and go for a distinct look and feel that makes your blog stand out.
Why images are vital to your search ranking
Images also impact on search ranking. Relevant and interesting images that are carefully labelled with the right file name and keywords will boost your ranking. And an image that is surrounded by related text will rank more highly for the keyword it’s optimised for.
Use images to break up the text and to help to explain the point you’re making
Embed videos, gifs and tweets where appropriate
Be sure to include alt-text on images
Captions are useful, but not essential
Maintain a consistent level of quality
Social media amplifies any inbound marketing strategy. Brands must be where their audiences hang out. This means creating content that people both want to share, and which can be easily shared.
Make it a one-click share
People love to share quotes on social media. So make your writing as quotable and shareable as possible. Great stats, powerful sound bites, bold declarations, clever insights - all of these will lend themselves to sharing. So invite people to do so by making it easy, by making it seamless.
Businesses that don’t optimise their content will never realise its true potential - and failing to streamline the social sharing process is a great example of this. You wouldn’t buy a brand new car and forgetting to fill the tank with fuel.
Choose the ‘best bits’ from the post and include ‘click to tweet’ or ‘click to share’ functionality
Make the text stand out so it prompts people to share your words
Soundbites will help to break up and punctuate posts, so use pull outs where appropriate
Identify where your audience hangs out
But don’t overwhelm people with options. You know your audience, so work out which three or four social platforms are most important to them. Take into account the nature of your content too - does it include lots of imagery or videos, for example?
Identify whether Instagram, Pinterest and Reddit will reach your audience, or whether Twitter, Facebook and Vine will pack more punch.
Social sharing buttons should be visible at the beginning and end of your blog post. You can also make them visible throughout the piece too, with a scroll through function.
Find and talk to key influencers
There may be a handful of well respected bloggers who specialise in your subject area. Ask them for input into your blog post, or mention them within the text. Once you have their buy in it will add further weight to your content, and that weight will fuel amplification. In all the right places. Reader advocacy will build trust, credibility, reach and authority.
Need to know
“67% of marketing and comms professionals engage with influencers for content promotion.” - LaunchMetrics
At the heart of inbound marketing is a call to action. This means compelling the audience to carry out a particular action - for example, signing up for a newsletter or downloading an exclusive piece of content.
Strike while the iron is hot
Once your reader has been taken on their journey, immersed themselves in your story and absorbed your expertise, deliver them seamlessly to the next step. They must want to deepen their relationship with you, be privy to future insights, be first to hear your news.
Not offering a Call to Action after providing some juicy, interesting and topical content is tantamount to not going on a second date after a rip-roaring first one. Think about it.
A Call to Action will encourage readers to enter your all-important sales funnel. You have them hooked. Now you can really start to nurture the relationship and prove your worth.
Five key things to remember for an effective Call To Action:
It should be visually vibrant and straight-to-the-point
A visual CTA must feature at the end of the blog post
Consider using visually appealing text based Mid-Page CTAs for longer posts (but nothing so loud that it interrupts the reader’s journey down the page!)
Monitor the click-rate for your CTA and make subtle changes (for example, adjust colour, imagery, wording etc) to identify the most effective design
Make one change at a time in order to identify which factor is having an impact
A post needs to grab the reader by the collar and haul them in, from the first sentence. No flannel, no waffle. Just highly relevant subject matter that offers distinctive value.
The body text must expand on this, and fulfil the early promise of that first sentence. It should demonstrate knowledge of pain points and solutions, bringing the subject alive and offering a comprehensive overview of the subject.
As the reader nears the end of their journey, a good post will draw together all of the key points covered. It will produce an overarching statement that wraps up the post and helps the reader to move forward.
Where will they go from here? What is the next step? Your wisdom will usher them forwards with renewed vigour…and a clear Call to Action will forge the beginnings of a fruitful business relationship.
But aside from committing to the cause (there is no easy way: successful blogs require dedication and commitment), there are important technical details to remember too, such as the use of strong imagery, the development of impactful infographics, the correct use of keywords, and the need to compel readers to share your content…
Successful blogging takes time, thought and application. But it’s a proven inbound marketing tool that can reap fantastic results.
So, once you’ve mastered the blog creation best practices laid out in this guide, reared your content brainchild and sent it out into the world like a proud mother, you may be wondering — what’s next?
Conceiving, creating and publishing your blog posts is only half the battle. What happens after you hit that publish button is just as, if not more, important to the overall success of your content marketing strategy. So don’t rest on your laurels.
Ask yourself: What are you going to do to amplify your content?
Distributing blog posts across relevant social networks is a great way to get discovered, for sure. But the power of social shares is definitely up for debate. Even shares by influencers aren’t guaranteed to drive traffic to your website.
“An influencer’s number of followers is fairly meaningless. The best influencers for content amplification are those with good follower engagement and high retweet rates. You are much better off in a niche with an influencer who has a highly engaged but smaller audience than someone with hundreds of thousands of followers who rarely engage.”
- Steve Rayson, Buzzsumo
And when Buzzsumo data reveals that…
50% of B2B content receives 22 social shares or less.
Most links shared on social are never clicked.
Many people who share the articles don’t even view them, let alone read them.
Social posts tend to have a limited shelf life.
Social sharing usually declines quickly in the days and weeks after content is published.
…it’s clear those marketers using organic social media as their primary amplification platform are neglecting the true potential of their blog posts.
Show it some love
Likelihood is your published content deserves more attention than its getting. With no real correlation between the number of backlinks and social shares each blog post receives, we need to understand that building authority, and maximising the lifespan of your content, is a complex process. But get it right, and the rewards are huge.
If you’re deadset on breeding brand awareness, driving traffic to your website and converting leads, you need to put a wider promotional strategy in place. One that unites your brand’s own creative streak, with established tactics such as manual promotion, targeted database mailing, paid promotion and collaboration with influencers.
Backlinks are your biggest search currency — and without these moving cogs, it’s easy to get lost in a crowded public stream. However, with the right approach to amplification, you have every opportunity to own your niche and kill it with some seriously sophisticated content.
What are you waiting for?