From hub of all inspirational and engaging content to a dumping ground for everything from press releases to product updates, the business blog has lost its way in recent years. But it still can play a vital part in your content strategy.
If a company has a website, it’ll more than likely have a blog. More than half all Fortune 500 companies run their own blog.
When used well, it can be a powerful marketing tool – a place to provide tailored content for sections of your audience in the research phase of their journey. And it can provide valuable results – a business blog can get you 55% more website visitors.
But over the years, the focus of many corporate blogs has been watered down. Instead of picking key topics to focus on, some have adopted a scattered shot approach to their content, filling it was random internal announcements, financial updates and product launches.
This, combined with poor navigation options and a lack of SEO forethought, has led to the classic content phrase: “The internet is a great place to hide content.” And the blog has become the box in which the content is buried.
But where did it go wrong, and how can we fix it?
What was a blog for?
For many years, blogs had their moment in the sun. They were the personal voice of big brands – places where companies could flex their tone of voice. Where they could reach out to their various audiences and talk to them on their level.
The blog was the area where you’d include anything that didn’t fall into the product or functional content. From how to use products to top tips and listicles, it was the home of informational and engaging content.
And it usually worked well. Blogs grew in popularity and companies embraced them - writing about everything and anything.
But over time, it became something…less. Instead of using this area to answer key questions about their products or industry, or to provide genuinely engaging content that people who have bought into their business would really enjoy, it became the dumping ground of everything that didn’t fit elsewhere.
Everything and nothing. Blogs are still hugely popular and many companies are using them to their best. In fact, they are becoming more popular than ever, and still effective as marketing tools.
But, behind the scenes, things are changing. And as with most online changes, it’s Google that’s creating the waves.
Google has long been pushing for not only natural language, but also at ways to make sure the right people are talking about the right topics.
This has been most keenly observed in the E-A-T update. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust. And when it comes to engaging and informational content, these three standards have never been more important. For blogs, it has meant:
- Expertise – Google wants blogs that know what they are talking about. It’s not enough to have companies churning out nameless blogs that are informed solely by online research. Google wants your experts to make sure these blogs are both factually correct and It wants to know that your company is the expert on every blog topic you choose. Which leads us to…
- Authority – Basically, do you have the right to talk about what you’re talking about? Is the content you’re producing for your blog relevant to your company? This is a big one, as many companies had gone down the path of writing blogs on topics tangentially linked to their company as a way to grab valuable SERP space.
- Trust – The two points above feed into this – if you have the right to talk about the topic and you have brought in your experts to make sure the content is correct, then the content will be trustworthy. This point also impacts on the accuracy of your blog – sources, references and fact-finding. You now can’t just claim something is a fact without backing it up.
What these are trying to do for the blog is to help companies create content that matches the user’s intent when searching. And that’s good for companies, because if you can provide this type of content then users are going to stick with your site. They’re going to remember that you were the brand that could help them when they needed it.
What that means for blogs and informational content
To make a blog that meets both the demand of Google and the needs of the users, we’ve developed a quick checklist. A modern blog should be:
- Focussed – Make it clear what it’s for and who it’s for. What question are you answer or pain point are you solving? At what point on the user journey is your audience and how are you helping to move them along to the next stop?
- Engaging – Once you’ve got them on site, you need to keep them there. Make sure it’s not dry, dull and uninspiring – keep it fresh, fun and engaging.
- Optimised - Keyword research can help you to laser focus your blogs and discover the right topics to address. Not only that, but it can help provide a structure, so that you’re covering all aspects of a topic in the most readable and easy to follow way.
- Planned – Avoid an ad-hoc approach to blogs - lay out the topics you want to cover in a content plan and find the best way to do so. Then assign ownership as to who will write the piece. This will allow you to plan additional assets – whether it’s graphics, imagery or video – to make it truly engaging.
- Consistent – Make sure your formatting, TOV, and structure are consistent. Not all blogs need to follow the same structure, but you should be looking at having some key elements in each one such as a concise introduction, optimised headers and a summary.
Alternative areas for informational content
This all means that while the blog section of your website is still vital, it’s not the only place for hosting informational content.
As websites have matured and marketing approaches developed, informational content that would have previously been chucked on the blog now has various other place it can sit.
- Knowledge hubs – Pull all your expert views and advice into a knowledge hub, developing and digging deep into a topic, leaving the blog area for more general company news.
- Sitting off product or category pages – The classic ‘how to’ guides could easily be moved from your blog to a product page. It makes sense from a user journey point of view – especially if they’ve searched for a vague keyword that has brought them to a product page, when in fact they actually want information on that product.
- News / press releases – Don’t water down the impact of your blog with financial announcements or news of promotions. Keep your company news separate.
- Niche pages – If there’s a subset of your company that talks to a specific audience or about a niche product, it might be worth moving content there. These work similar to a knowledge hub, but are much more focussed on that single area of your business.
- YouTube – not all informational content is written – video explainers, podcasts or behind the scenes guides can all be shipped to your YouTube channel. After all, it’s still the second most used search engine.
- FAQs – break down your informational content into bite size pieces or answers key questions in your expanded FAQ section. Opt for single catch all FAQ page or if you need, develop one for various key products.
As the world starts to reset and people rethink their approach to pretty much everything, now is the perfect time to take a good, hard look at your website and content strategy to see if you’re utilising your blog to its potential. If your blog has lost its way, now is the ideal time to put it back on the right path and give your loyal audiences the content they need and deserve.