As many brands focus much of their attention on producing content for other social properties, corporate blogs tend to fly under the radar. Building an effective corporate blog takes time and effort, but it also offers a huge unique set of benefits. In today’s content-everywhere world, you have to make your company blog relevant. That means establishing your company blog as a true news source for reporters and customers alike.
How do you get there? Publish newsworthy content. Publish official company statements to it, use your blog to elaborate on official statements published on Twitter or elsewhere on your company’s website. Arm members of your comms staff with them when these statements are live so they can use them when following up with reporters online or off. If the information you post to your company blog is useful to reporters, it’s likely that same information will be useful to customers.
In earlier posts, I discussed how to build relationships with reporters online, and how to use new tools to stay on top of industry news going on around you. Why do those things matter? Because they will lead to links to your company’s blog, and links are the life blood of blogs. By design, blogs are outward-facing. At their best, they connect to external sources. Those sources can be things you encounter during your daily reads, comments or tweets you’re reacting to, or ideas that validate points you’re making or ideas you agree or disagree with.
In this context, there are two categories of links: inbound and outbound links. Outbound links are hyperlinks from a blog post to another source. Pay closer attention to this next time you read a corporate blog post. Many posts don’t contain a single outbound link. Some will contain links to a company press release, maybe a company-sponsored whitepaper or links to general information pages on the company website. While links to company sources are a start, you need to go further. Links to customer tweets (you should embed those tweets too), a specific comment in a blog or article comment thread, or a link to the third-party post/article itself is worth much more than links to company resources.
Inbound links are hyperlinks from other blogs or sites directly to your content. When I said links are the life blood of blogs, inbound links are the top of the hierarchy. The more inbound links a blog earns, the more important it is in Google’s rankings. Driving quality inbound links is still the most effective way to improve your blog’s SEO—something that’s critically important. Inbound links happen in various forms: sometimes, an outlet may embed a statement or other social content from a post like this recent Recode article where the author embedded this video from the SpaceX YouTube channel. But the goal should be to have your company blog post be the source for the news.
Take a look at this recent Windows 10 post from the Verge regarding how Microsoft will roll out the operating system starting July 29. The Source section at the bottom of the image below shows Microsoft as the source. It links to this Terry Myerson post on the official Windows blog.
Another recent example: TechCrunch’s coverage of the Google Trends redesign where they linked to the Google blog post (see image below) where the company explained the redesign in more detail. Google’s News Lab post was another source for many media outlets.
One reason I’ve defended long-form content in the past: SEO benefits. Sure, paying attention to keywords, adding tags and writing good headlines help the cause, but it’s links from other sites that drive SEO much more significantly. That’s something that’s been fairly consistent even when Google makes changes to their search algorithms. When I ran the Dell blog, things worked best when we found the right balance of content. That means starting with things that matter to customers and connecting your brand to broader trends in the industry. Doing so effectively builds credibility, which leads to trust. In today’s noisy content world, it’s not surprising many content creators jump right into Marketing mode. The reality? You will be much more effective when you earn your way in.
It’s one thing for big companies like Apple to drive news cycles with a few tweets or others like Microsoft and Google with a blog post. But you don’t have to be a multi-billion dollar corporation to develop a blog into a news source. It just takes patience, a bit of an appetite for risk and some discipline.
What Matters to Customers:
It’s easy to make the assumption this means using a blog for issues management. While that is important (systemic issue-related posts we published on the Dell blog were always among the most popular posts for a longer period of time), it can also mean blogs about corporate updates like quarterly earnings or business strategy updates. Speaking of business strategy, many companies these days are facing big changes. It’s during those times of change that your customers and employees have lots of questions about the company’s future. Use a blog post to answer some of those questions over time. Your customers and employees benefit from a deeper understanding of your company’s strategy. If your business strategy posts offer solid perspective on where your company is heading, chances are good that reporters will find it useful. If it’s useful enough, those same reporters will link to it and write their own articles and posts in reaction.
Broader Trends Impacting Your Industry:
This takes effort, both in terms of finding relevant content, and especially seamlessly adding company perspective to an ongoing narrative. When done right, it can be very effective. It’s important because no matter how good your storytelling capability, customers are more interested in the broader context. No matter how loyal your customer base may be, they don’t check your company blog on a regular basis. They do however, execute Google searches about products and topics. Even after Dell’s corporate blog Direct2Dell had been established for several years, by the time I left in 2013, almost half of the total traffic to the Dell blog was the result of Google searches. That means if your company blog posts don’t rank in the first page of search results, many customers are not going to get to your company blog in the first place.
What You Want to Promote:
You probably already have an established process for telling stories about your customers and employees on your company blog. You probably publish posts your company culture and shed light around your company’s commitment to CSR efforts large and small. There’s a place for all of those things, but this is where balance is important. Product posts are probably another type of content you typically publish. In my experience, product posts are most effective when they are useful to a range of customers. Let’s say you’re a brand that sells smartphones. It’s not hard to see that customers spend a lot of time looking for information on the latest version of the iPhone, Samsung’s next Galaxy Note device, Google’s next Nexus smartphone or countless others. When it’s time to confirm availability of the next hot device, give your customers context by linking to third-party initial hands-on previews (like this LG G4 hands-on from Engadget), and augment the post later with the more in-depth reviews that always follow once the smartphone is available (here’s Engadget’s full LG G4 review). Doing so broadens your post’s reach by connecting your blog to influential third-party sites, but more importantly, you will create a resource that saves customers time by centralizing details into one useful post. That means customers will be more likely to share this kind of post to their friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or elsewhere. Finding good third-party reviewers may require a bit of research, but there are definitely ones that rise to the top. Besides the Verges and the Engadgets of the world, there are a number of blogs that do great in-depth product reviews: sites like BGR.com, 9to5Mac.com and their Google equivalent, PhoneDog,com, and TechnoBuffalo to name a few. Besides linking to those reviews, it’s probably worth embedding a YouTube video review from someone like Marques Brownlee (also known as MKBHD). I consider Marques one of the best product reviewers on the web. Lisa Gade from MobileTechReview.com also does great in-depth video reviews, as does the team from PocketNow.com’s YouTube channel.
Regardless of what category of content you’re writing for, focus on making that content useful to anyone who reads it. Many times, that means providing unique insight that a customer or reporter is not going to see in a company press release or elsewhere on your brand’s website. Getting there may require a change in thinking. Think of blog communications as iterative communications. In traditional comms, before the rise of social in the corporate space, it was common for companies to hold onto news until certain milestones were reached or things culminated into an event, or some other splashy thing occurred. That could mean months before any element of the news was shared externally. However, these days, with options like a company blog, brands can share news in an iterative fashion, instead of holding it until all the pieces line up for one big announcement.
This concept can be useful when articulating business strategy like I discussed before. Another area where it applies is acquisitions. You’re probably thinking that communications around acquisitions are tightly controlled, and you’d be right. But think about what can be confirmed when an acquisition is announced. Even a small bit of context is useful to reporters and customers then. Once an acquisition settles, start thinking how you could add to what execs are saying to the media with a blog post. Maybe it’s an expanded statement from an executive, or it could be a YouTube interview with execs where they shed light on new strategy as it relates to an acquisition posted to your company’s YouTube web page. Embed that interview into a blog post that provides context of the news, and link to several media sources that have written stories on the topic before.
All of these things probably require more effort than you’re putting in now. It may mean more collaboration with other groups in your organization, and may translate into an extra layer of approval or editing. But here’s the good news: once you establish your company blog as a news source for reporters and customers, the momentum can carry you through for years to come.
I love helping brands on this front. If you have questions or comments about this post or others, feel free to reach out to me via @LionelGeek on Twitter, here on LinkedIn, or drop me a line in the blog comments.