In recent years, native blogging has become an increasingly trendy tool for brands and marketers. Not so long ago, SocialMedia Examiner showed 62% of 3,000 surveyed marketers claimed blogging was a social media skill they hoped to master. Three years later, that number has grown significantly.
Brands inevitably arrive at a question: “How can blogging serve my business?” Research shows that B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads each month than those that don’t. Even as early as 2009, HubSpot research showed business blogging led to 55% more web visitors. Essentially, more traffic equates to more opportunities for lead generation. It also establishes your brand as an authority in your industry; a trusted voice in a sea of chaos.
Millennial media Mashable has long aimed to inform, inspire, and entertain a web-savvy generation of 20-somethings. In case you’ve been living on the moon for the past several years, this site has seen success. It boasts 45 million monthly visits and 26 million social media followers.
But clearly, not every blog is a success. What separates a great blog from a failed one? Career bloggers will tell you that publishing work at least every week is a crucial element. But apart from that, here are five rules to consider when building native blogs for brands.
Know your audience
First things first. Before you even start writing, you need to think carefully about who you are writing for. For example, if your brand’s target audience is middle-class affluent mothers with newborn babies, then you’ll probably not want to write about rock climbing. Instead, you’ll have better luck blogging about motherhood, or offering up tips to make life with an infant easier. It sounds simple, but you’ll be surprised by how many brands gloss over this very simple brainstorming step.
After deciding who your target reader is, try to be mindful of their personal values. Think about which pieces of knowledge you assume they already have. Consider the things you imagine they want to learn. If possible, conduct interviews with your ideal readers before you even craft the architecture of your blog. Just chatting with these people briefly should paint a better mental picture of what you want the blog to feel like.
With so many blogs cropping up each day, one of the ways yours will stand out is authenticity. Find your own voice, your own style, and make sure to be consistently pushing out new content. If you truly have your target readers in mind, people will get used to your editorial flair, and come to acknowledge it as your brand’s signature.
Let’s take a look at a semi-popular travel blog called The Everywhereist. Instead of reading like a traditional travel magazine, the site adopts a more personal tone, in which the audience feels like they’re chatting up a friend who has just returned home from a trip.
By honing her unique tone of voice and consistently putting out interesting content, the writer has managed to capture a niche audience, and win several awards over the past five years. If executed properly, this same personalized approach can be implemented seamlessly in your own writing, and hopefully inspire trust from readers.
Compose attractive headlines
Headlines often don’t get the attention they deserve from writers and editors under strict deadlines. But in reality, the headline is one of the most important elements of an article. A pithy headline can make all the difference in the world. It is the first thing the reader considers when making the decision to engage.
Attractive headlines often use numbers, keywords, or triggering terms. If there’s anything that millennial media has taught us, it’s that listicles work. For example, it’s probably better to use the headline 5 Easy Ways to Raise Your Income Online as opposed to The Internet Helps People Make More Money. The headline should make readers curious, or at least interested enough to convince them they will benefit from reading.
Naturally, as a brand, your end game is largely to funnel traffic back to your company’s page. But you need to keep in mind that you’re writing for the readers, not for the company.
The main objective might be to increase sales, but if you go ahead and hard sell products on the blog, the readers will feel betrayed. You will lose that trusted voice you worked so hard to establish. Instead, just focus on delivering the value craved by the readers. Try to forget that you crave sales, and just pretend you are a journalist informing an audience.
Hack: Feel free to insert a transparent plug with a backlink at the bottom of every post which indicates your brand provided the content. This is useful because it doesn’t disrupt the reading experience, it’s not technically part of the article, and the reader exits the piece with a complete context of who is responsible for the insights they just absorbed. If they found value, they’ll be back.
Don’t skimp on visuals
It’s important for native bloggers to constantly be experimenting with visual content. Simply put, some people respond better to images than they do to text. Content Marketing Institute says posts with images get 94% more page views than those that have none (so it’s really a no-brainer). Having great images speaks to the overall credibility of the blog.
A good blog post should include a range of images. Take time to consider the best way to source original photos, custom graphics, videos, charts, and more. Use images to make the content more engaging and easier to understand.