2013 will be the year of content. At least, that’s a conclusion you can reach when you look over B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends, a report brought to use by folks over at the Content Marketing Institute and MarkingProfs.
A full 91% of respondents said they use content marketing. Out of the average 12 content marketing tactics companies use, 77% use blogs. And many see results. 59% of B2B users believe blogs are effective, ranking the tactic fourth in perceived effectiveness.
Maintaining an effective blog is no small feat. It requires time, energy, strategy, perseverance, and skill. To add to its difficulty, blogging can be murky terrain for professionals. What exactly is a professional blog? How should a professional blog differ from a personal one?
As an important component of the ever-changing digital landscape, ideas about blogging are transforming, and your blog could be the rule-defying example that changes the game. However, beneath the ebb and flow of Internet preference, there are some fundamental guidelines that can make your blog more professional.
Host it yourself
If you’re short on cash, by all means, go with one of the free blogging platforms out there. However, businesses with a bit more wiggle room should seriously consider hosting their own blog. Having your own online turf reflects credibility in some eyes. Perhaps even more importantly, hosting your own blog ensures that you don’t lose content at the whim of your free blogging provider.
Shape content and design around a professional goal
Why are you blogging professionally, anyway? Are you trying to get visitors to contact you through phone or email? Perhaps your main goal is brand development? Once you assess goals, you are in a better position to blog. You can then decide what content to focus on, which angle to take, and the overall navigation and design of your blog.
A personal blog tends to be inward-facing. It’s yours, after all, and you’re free to express what you want, how you want. A professional blog, however, should be outward-facing. Before you post, ask yourself:
- Whom am I writing this post for?
- What problems are they facing?
- How can I translate my expertise into solutions for them?
If your post doesn’t solve potential customers’ problems, you have a big problem. People don’t tend to buy products and services due to exquisite prose. Sure, strong writing is important, but only if it aptly addresses the needs of people who will, at some point, require a product or service you offer.
Maintaining a professional blog is an excellent way to convey that you know your stuff. Establishing yourself as an expert in your field can attract a lot of business because, let’s face it, wouldn’t you be more inclined to work with someone who knows what they’re talking about?
It’s difficult to demonstrate expertise through paltry posts, though. Off-the-cuff entries barely topping out at 200 words don’t exactly inspire copies amount of trust.
Show off your industry chops by publishing at least a few well-researched, authoritative posts. That’s not to say you need to produce novels — though an ebook wouldn’t hurt! — but you should have several posts that are long enough to fully pursue a point, with plenty of sources and external links to back them up.
A blog is an ongoing project. It demonstrates not only your desire to solve problems and share expertise, but also your presence. In other words, it reminds people that you are around. It reassures them that you’re engaged with your industry and up-to-date on what’s going on.
Abandoning your blog, on the other hand, drops you off the map. One reason many bloggers stop posting is they let one update slide, then the next, until they are so distant from their last update they begin to wonder the point of pursuing the whole project. Avoid that trap by updating regularly, even if it’s only a quick post. Even short updates can give you enough traction that you’re more likely to stay in the game.
If you must stop blogging, at least update readers about what’s going on. Including a final, explanatory post is not only kind to people who have been following you, but also reassuring potential customers you don’t just slip away from a project without a peep.
It can be tough to make your blog professional while trying to balance the desire to create something nuanced and unique. The balance is possible, though. Allow the guidelines to set your foundation and then let the rest of your creation take shape.