What I learned from 5 years of writing business blogs
How successful is your blog? Do your lead generation goals give you sleepless nights? Maybe you are managing a blog that has hit a plateau in lead generation?
These are all signs of a struggling blog. You can double your blog’s social shares, generate 3x more qualified leads through it, and get more comments on each post than you can count on two hands. But none of this is going to happen if your blog does not come from a place of serving your leads and customers.
Quick read: who I am and why you should read this article
I started writing as a professional back in 2014 when I got an opportunity to be a part of the Infosys Value Design team. I made the jump into full-time freelance blogging in 2016 when I decided to stop kidding around and take writing, as a career, seriously.
Thanks to great blogs that gave me a lot of freedom in writing and editors who gave me smart topics to write, I explored content marketing and writing in great depth. Marketing was quite alien yet, somehow, very exciting to me.
I learned the idea of audience orientation pretty early on because every marketing article I learned talked about customer personas. I dove right in and soon learned how to select which topics to write about and how to do intent-based keyword research. The general principle was the same — if you are writing a business blog, make it not about yourself but about your audience.
So far, I have learned a few things about the way blogs work and how Editors choose their blogs. This article covers the lessons I learned from those 5 years.
Empathy is the kingmaker of your blog’s success
Let’s say you earned a million dollars in a lottery. You’re ecstatic. You don’t know how you will use all that money but you love that warm, fuzzy feeling of richness. Maybe you will invest it in your next business, maybe it will go to your creditors, or maybe you will donate some amount to a charity of your choice.
You were imagining all this for yourself until now. But this scenario is not at all imaginary; it’s real.
What I described is your ideal future customer — one with a lot of money (or at least enough that they can afford your product/service) and they don’t have plans for spending all that money.
What if you were to convince them to spend a small portion of their money on you?
Again, put yourself into your customers’ shoes. Why would they buy from you?
Why do you buy from brands that you buy from?
Here’s a little exercise for you to activate your marketing empathy:
- List down three major brands of products that you buy, use, love, and recommend to others regularly.
- List down at least 3–5 reasons that make you want to buy from them. Take some time to think and do not rush this step.
Why generate leads through your blog?
Being a part of the blogosphere, I learned why exactly people love content marketing in general and blogs in particular. There are several benefits of lead generation through blogging.
Firstly, blogs are omnipresent on the internet. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a blog. Why? Because people are reading blogs. These businesses or individuals have figured out the value of blogs and ways to make them successful.
Secondly, a blog kicks off the lead lifecycle. Until people are not on your email list, they are bystanders. You are wasting traffic if you are not converting them into leads.
Finally, it forces you to become better at content marketing. You can’t give the same content to your leads that you gave to unsubscribed visitors. You must give them exclusive content, something that would gladly give you their email for.
If you want to generate leads, you must also focus on what kind of content you will provide them to nurture those leads.
Don’t just look at lead generation alone as the only task, instead think of lead generation and lead nurturing as a single function. What content will you give that will help them move up the value ladder so that they actively seek out your product?
This kind of long-term thinking about the usefulness of your content at different stages makes you care about your customer. It opens your mind and activates that empathetic muscle which ultimately leads you deep into the jungle of the topics your audience is curious about.
This is a nice segue into one of my most favorite methods of lead generation through blogging.
The need for Keyword Research
Keyword research, if done right, can open a powerful window into the minds of your leads. And it doesn’t have to be limited to just Google.
People don’t talk on Google — gone are the days of Google+ — they just search on it. They actually talk on social media networks. So here’s a tip for you:
Get involved in communities where your audiences hang out. Find the top 5 most commonly talked-about topics in the past 3 months.
Keyword Research doesn’t need to be expensive
I don’t have any paid tools and neither did any of the clients give me access to their paid tools. I have learned to dive deep into free keyword research methods. I discovered my favorites are Google SERP, Adwords Keyword Planner, and Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator.
Google is handy in this step, but it does not give you all the data. The same is the case with free tools. Paid keyword research tools give you a lot of rich data into your audience’s intentions.
But hey, you don’t stop wishing for a car when you don’t have money to buy it, do you? You would try saving up until you have enough to buy a car.
Your blog needs these paid tools just like you need a car. Be patient and work hard toward buying a paid tool, if you can’t afford one currently. You can even explore comparatively cheaper group-buy options.
One of the blogs I wrote was outlined purely based on how I wanted to communicate my thoughts. It was quite personal (even if it was for a client) because I loved the topic.
Here is that blog. I wrote it in 2019 and it has been edited since then. It’s not ranking now, but in 2019 it almost instantly shot up to №1 on Google. Imagine the feeling of exhilaration — a newbie writer ranking ABOVE HubSpot.
And it stayed on top for 2 full years!
I don’t think this would have been possible if I wrote every topic from my heart. I still ranked several other articles that were based on keywords that the SEO Analyst gave to me. Their keyword research was blind to me, but it was always working behind the scenes.
I wouldn’t call keyword research as the only way — you can and should write from your heart — but it’s a good way to gauge your audience’s interests and make sure your article is machine-readable for Google’s bots.
Plants don’t grow overnight, and neither do blogs. Blogging for an audience is a lot like gardening, you have to find what your audience (i.e. your plant) needs to grow to their full potential.