There is no better way to combine content marketing, social media marketing and SEO than blogging. Let’s take a look at just how powerful and effective blogging can be:

As you can see, there is a lot of value in blogging. These stats are enough to make any marketer rush to download WordPress and jump right in, but each one is meaningless if you don’t know how to blog.

There’s a huge disconnect between companies that blog and companies that blog effectively. Blogging is about a lot more than just writing up a quick 500-word article and tweeting out the link. If you want to get more traffic, build trust with your audience and generate qualified leads, then start implementing these pro blogging tips ASAP.

1. Create a Buyer Persona

Before you write a single post, know who you’re writing for. This is more than the generic “people who like social media.” Get specific and laser targeted. Give your persona a name. Here’s an example of what your personal might look like if your company sold career coaching.

Steve is a single 23 year old male that lives downtown. He just graduated from college with a business degree, and he’s looking for ways to network and build his personal brand to become more appealing to employers. Steve is an entrepreneur at heart but is looking to gain experience in a startup before he launches his own company.

With that in mind, you’ll have a better idea of what type of content you’re going to create on your blog. Sure, not everyone who reads your blog is going to be like Steve, but having an ideal consumer in mind will make your content more focused and targeted, instead of just writing blindly about any topic you can think of.

2. Do Keyword Research

One of the biggest benefits of blogging is that it brings in organic traffic from search engines. In fact, companies that blog have 434% more pages indexed than those that don’t. That allows their sites to be seen as more relevant to their industry, which Google loves. One of the first steps in the process of getting more search traffic through blogging is keyword research.

Keyword research is the process of finding the different search phrases and terms that your customers use to find your website. The goal is to create a huge list of keywords related to your industry, and then create blog topics targeting those specific phrases. Sticking to the example in the first tip, one of your keywords might be “social media branding.” That could inspire a post called “Ultimate Guide To Personal Social Media Branding.”

For more information on getting started with keyword research, check out an earlier Insights post from Kristi Hines: How to Write a Blog Post.

If your website has been up for a while, and you have Google Analytics installed, there’s actually a shortcut you can use to get some keyword ideas. But in order for this to work, your Google Analytics has to be linked to Google Webmaster tools. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Log into Google Analytics
  2. Go to Acquisition>Search Engine Optimization>Queries

Here you’ll find a huge list of different phrases people searched for and and found your website in the search results (impressions). We should note that this doesn’t mean everyone actually clicked through to your site. Now that you know the terms and phrases people are actively looking for, start using some of them as inspiration for new blog topics.

3. Learn From Your Competitors

If your competitors are blogging, and they’re successful, then you should spend some time examining what they’re doing and try to implement similar strategies on your own blog.

For instance, if you notice a lot of your competitors’ blog posts are lists, and they’re getting shared heavily on social media, then it’s probably a good idea to start creating some “Top X…” list posts for your own blog. Or if you see that they’re marketing heavily on Facebook to push traffic to their blog, then you ought to be getting more familiar with Facebook.

That said, one very important thing that you don’t want to do is steal exact ideas or, worse, copy and paste their content onto your own site. Not only is it in bad taste but it could also open you up to legal trouble.

But for competitive intelligence purposes, you can use tools like SEMrush or BuzzSumo to get a look into what’s working for your competition.

4. Let Your Personality Shine Through

There’s nothing worse than reading a dull, bland, dry blog post. In a world where companies tip-toe around saying the wrong thing, many businesses are afraid of being a little edgy or entertaining with their content. But the companies that are really seeing the most success with their blogs are the ones that inject humor and fun into them.

Companies like ModCloth and Trulia break the stereotypical corporate blog image by creating content that’s relevant and interesting. A common piece of advice to people just getting started with blogging is to write how you talk. When you write in a natural, conversational tone, it’s a lot more inviting and easier to read.

This tip also applies to the topics you write about. For companies in industries that might not be as sexy as fashion or technology, this can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Take ADP for example. ADP provides Human Resources services, and payroll isn’t a very exciting topic to write about. But ADP’s blog isn’t boring. The company covers topics ranging from workplace diversity to trending world news, and manage to do it in a way that’s interesting.

5. Grow Your Email List

Remember when we said blogging helps generate more leads? Building up your email list is a huge part of the equation. Setting up an email subscribe form on your blog should be a priority.

People will find your blog through Google Search, social media or links from other sites, but they usually leave after getting the information they came for. This results in a lost lead, that is, unless you get their email address.

There’s a huge focus being put on getting people to follow your company on Twitter or to Like your Facebook Page, and rightfully so. Social media marketing is very important, but email gives you an even closer way to connect with your audience because you can contact them directly. And, let’s not overlook the fact that there are 3X the amount of emails out there as there are Facebook and Twitter accounts combined.

Here are some tips on growing your email list:

  • Give something away: Create a free report, offer a coupon code or make a free guide to entice people to sign up to your list.
  • Make a strong CTA: People are understandably protective of giving out their email address. Make your call-to-action so appealing that they can’t resist.
  • Experiment: Try placing forms as pop-ups, in your sidebar, before/after blog posts, the top of the screen and other locations to see what converts the best. SumoMe can help you out there.
  • Keep in touch: If you’re only sending out emails once every three months, your list won’t pick up much traction. Try emailing a few times a week, or at least once a week.
Willy Franzen saw a 254% increase in email subscribers by changing his CTA!

6. Make a Blogging Schedule

A common mistake made by company blogs is being inconsistent. Consistent blogging keeps people coming back. Not only that, but publishing blogs on a regular schedule can even lead to more subscribers.

In this case study from Strategic Office Support, the company’s daily visitors jumped from 20 to 100 by changing its blogging frequency from monthly to weekly.

In a separate case study from Be A Better Blogger, the company tested the difference between posting five days a week versus once a week. Here are the results:

  • Social shares increased 84%
  • Comments increased 119%
  • Traffic increased 46%

Posting five days a week can be a challenge, especially if you don’t have the extra bandwidth. Remember, promoting your content is equally, if not more important than just creating it. Ideally you should push for two to five new posts a week. But if you can publish at least one a week, you’re still doing better than companies that only blog once a month or less.

7. Answer Your Customers’ Questions With Your Blog

If you’re a plumber and you notice that a lot of your customers are always asking you what they can and can’t put down their garbage disposal, you’ve just gotten the inspiration for your next blog topic. Customers are one of the most overlooked sources of blog topic ideas, but they’re probably one of the most powerful.

When your potential customers are able to find the answers to their questions on your company’s site, it erases the need for them to go to a competitor. With that in mind, you can blog about:

  • Common challenges your customers face
  • Information on the products you sell (be informative, not salesy)
  • How-to guides
  • Ask me Anything (collect questions from customers and answer them all in one post)

8. Take Off the Sales Hat

Your blog is not another promotional tool. Blogging does generate leads, but that’s not the purpose. If all you’re blogging about is your latest sales, new products you’re releasing and the products you currently offer, you won’t get the results you’re expecting. Take the spotlight off you and put it on your audience.

If people want to know about your services, they should be able to go to your services pages and read about them. Your blog is where you provide helpful information that they can benefit from somehow. Offer your audience and potential customers value through your free content, and once you’ve built up that trust with them, then the sales process doesn’t feel forced.

9. Make Your Blog Posts Look Good

Too many blog posts are huge walls of text. Reading a blog post shouldn’t be like reading through a college research paper. Your blog posts should be visually appealing. That means:

  • Using lists
  • Using images
  • Using bold and italics
  • Keeping paragraphs short and sweet (two to four sentences)
  • Using headings
  • Using a nice sized font (preferably 16px)

Which one of these blog posts would you rather read?

10: Make Your Blog a Go-To Resource

This takes some time to accomplish because it usually requires building up a good amount of content. But over time, you want your company’s blog to become one of the leading resources in your industry.

Trulia is a good example, because its site is a valuable resource for renters and home buyers. Another example is Mint, the personal finance tracking tool. Its MintLife blog is jam packed with great tips on personal finance and industry news. While the company’s blog posts fit into different categories, they are all related to the industry.

This ties back into tip #7. There shouldn’t be any reason for your traffic to go anywhere else for information related to your industry.

11. Don’t Only Use Text, Use Multimedia

Blog posts don’t have to only feature text. Using video, infographics, audio and other media can be a good way to mix up the content on your blog every now and then. Even though it might be easier and quicker to just type up a 1,000 word blog post, don’t underestimate the power of visuals. When it comes to learning and retaining information, 65% of the population prefers visuals.

To add to that, articles with images in them get 94% more views than those that don’t. Take a look at this infographic from MDG Advertising for more data around how images impact your content.

12. Track Your Efforts

The only way to judge whether or not your blogging efforts are actually working is to have some type of analytics installed to measure your ROI. Google Analytics is free and you can start seeing which posts are the most popular, which posts people are staying on the longest and even which posts aren’t performing so well.

And since social media and blogging are so closely tied together, you’ll also want to track which of your posts are being shared the most on social media. A quick way to do this is with the Quicksprout social media analysis tool. Just paste in your site’s URL, then click on the social media analysis tab. You’ll see a list of the social shares each of your posts has, organized by social media site.

Once you see which posts are getting shared the most, you’ll get a better picture of what type of content your audience prefers so you can make more of it.

13. Optimize Your Blog Post for SEO

As we’ve mentioned, blogging is a great way to get some organic search traffic. In addition to doing keyword research, your posts should also be optimized for search engines. That means:

  • Putting your main keyword in the post title
  • Including related keywords in the content
  • Using appropriate subheadings (h2,h3…)
  • Optimizing images
  • Including internal links
  • Linking out to authoritative websites
  • Including your main keyword in the URL

In addition to on-page SEO, you’ll also want to make sure you’re sharing your blog posts as much as possible through social media, email, blog comments and anywhere else you can to get the word out. The more people that find out about your content, the higher chances of them linking to it.

14. Quality > Everything Else

Never sacrifice quality. The days of putting out a bunch of low quality 500-word blog posts to help out with your SEO are pretty much over. People want substance and quality, not a poorly written, fluff-filled article that doesn’t provide any type of value.

For example, let’s say you’re a computer repair company and you want to write a post about the top 10 ergonomic keyboards. Instead of just listing off each one, go into detail about why you’re recommending each keyboard, and the specific benefits it offers. That simple tip can take your blog posts to the next level by keeping people on your site longer, giving readers more value and making your blog post that much better than your competitors.

Take the time to create thoughtful content that has a purpose, and you’ll have much better success with your blog.

15. Be Patient

Success from blogging isn’t going to happen over night. It takes consistent work to build up your library of content, establish your audience and become a respected authority in your industry.

Too many businesses give up on blogging too early because they don’t see immediate results. But if they would’ve stuck with it, kept producing content and promoted it, they would’ve eventually gotten the benefits.

Our point is that blogging isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. One of the best examples of this is Rand Fishkin‘s wife’s blog. Rand posted images showing how much her traffic grew, but more importantly, how long it took to get there.

Pretty amazing, right? But it didn’t happen overnight. It might not take you two and a half years to see results, but the point is that it does take some time.

Are you blogging yet? Share your tips for success in the comments below.