If you’ve ever noticed how easy it is for your business’s blog to sink to the bottom of your priority list, you’re not alone. In today’s whirlwind financial services environment—which all too often feels like two steps forward, one step back—you may feel that blogging is a bonus activity, not a mission-critical one. You may have wondered: Is blogging worth the time and effort it takes? How will it drive revenue or attract new clients to my firm?
The answers to these questions depend entirely on how you approach the blogging endeavor and how well you adhere to the principles of effective blogging. There is a reason why many businesses devote ample resources and time to their blogs: because they have discovered that a blog, when done well, is a powerfully persuasive tool that delivers a strong return on investment.
Consider this: Your blog offers a distinctive, reliable platform for showing your visitors your value and expertise, and for expressing your unique point of view on a variety of relevant topics. In an industry that rewards trust and integrity, you can use your blog to show readers who you are and what your company is all about. Finally, blogging is one of the best ways to achieve high visibility on the Web, as Google and other search engines prioritize active sites that are updated frequently. When you post unique and authoritative content to your blog, you’re giving Google fresh data to index, and your search engine ranking will rise accordingly.
Simply put: Blogging makes your expertise, your website, and your company more discoverable on the Internet.
Fortunately, blogging need not be a daunting task. Instead of sitting down in front of a blank screen and trying to conjure a blogging strategy out of thin air, let yourself be guided by these three keys to effective blogging:
- Write useful and original content.
- Make your blog posts discoverable.
- Post regularly, and pay attention to analytics.
Let’s break these guiding principles down into actionable steps.
1. WRITE USEFUL AND ORIGINAL CONTENT
The most important factor in successful blogging is to trust and express your own voice. There is plenty of cookie-cutter content on the Web, and savvy readers know it when they see it. They also know when they’re reading authentic, original content that speaks to someone’s unique expertise and point of view. That’s the sweet spot your blog needs to hit, and here’s how you’ll do it:
Know your audience and your niche.
Don’t write blog content for the general public. Think about the specific circumstances and pain points of your current (and prospective) clients, and write the content they’re looking for. Visitors who find your site via search engines are looking for answers to specific questions, so make sure your blog posts give them a reason to keep reading. You’ll know your site is relevant if Google Analytics shows a low bounce rate and a high time-on-page.
Be authentic and give away insights.
Write as though you’re speaking to a client, and let your voice and personality come through. Be succinct, write in natural and jargon-free language, and provide practical tips and information so your readers read your post to the end. Engage readers by sharing practical, valuable information they can use. Keeping your expertise too close to the vest will send them elsewhere to find the information they need. Your generosity will pay dividends.
Write a great title and include a call to action.
Your blog title is the first thing visitors see in their search results, so make sure it’s catchy, to the point, and relevant to the content of your post. Aim for brevity: 55 characters or fewer. At the end of your post, keep readers engaged with a call to action that includes a link to get in touch with you and links to relevant pages on your site.
Format your blog post for readability.
Use subheads, bullets, pull quotes, and images to make your content scannable and inviting to read. Big blocks of text are intimidating and can result in higher bounce rates. Google and readers love lists, how-to’s, case studies, and Q&As.
2. MAKE YOUR BLOG POSTS DISCOVERABLE
To make your blog a useful business development tool, you’ll need to get it in front of people who aren’t already your clients. Sharing your posts on social media and tagging them with keywords and meta descriptions will give Google what it needs to reward you with a higher search engine ranking, which will lead to more traffic to your blog and website.
Share links to your blog on social media.
If you’re blogging, you probably have a social media presence on at least one of the major platforms—LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Share a link to your blog on your socials, and include a provocative message or teaser that will drive viewers to click on, like, and even share the post.
Amplify content through your network.
Remember: there’s strength in numbers. Share your blog posts with your teammates, and ask them to share it with their networks. Let’s say you have 20 employees who each have 200 LinkedIn contacts. That’s 2,000 first-level connections who can see your post. When one of those 2,000 connections like or share the post, it opens the post up to that person’s connections, and now you’re on your way to going viral.
Imagine your potential readers typing words into Google or asking Siri for information about a topic. These are the keywords you need to keep in mind when composing your blog. To boost your search engine ranking, weave these common terms into your blog post—in the title (if possible), the URL, and the body copy (at least twice). Don’t go overboard, or Google may deem your post spammy and penalize your SEO ranking.
Meta descriptions matter.
Meta descriptions are the short descriptions that that appear in Google search results (right below the blog title), and you can set them up when you publish your post. To best serve your dual audience (potential clients and Google), do two things:
- Make sure your meta description relates to and expands on the blog post title but doesn’t duplicate it.
- Avoid using the same phrases in multiple posts, because that will confuse Google crawlers reading your site, and your posts will appear to be competing with each other.
3. POST REGULARLY, AND PAY ATTENTION TO ANALYTICS
The Web is littered with blogs that got off to a strong start but foundered over time. You’ll want to avoid the appearance of neglect and ensure that your blog is fresh and up to date. Both your clients and Google will reward your efforts.
Google prioritizes sites that are updated often. Consistency is the most important factor, so be realistic about what you and your team can keep up with. Aim to post new content on a weekly (or biweekly) basis. Even the best content creators can temporarily get burned out or run out of ideas, so invite team members to create blogs, use evergreen content as needed, and share relevant third-party articles.
Set up Google Analytics.
Adding Google Analytics to your website is one of the most important things you can do, and there are lots of resources online to help you. Having data to analyze will give you invaluable information about the most popular active posts on your website and help you tailor your upcoming content to your target audience. Take the time to understand your Google Analytics setup—most people do it wrong! Consider hiring a professional to set up your dashboard and create custom reports geared specifically to your business goals. Once your setup is established, you will receive regular email updates.
Pay attention to the data.
Once you’ve set up Google Analytics, the next crucial step is to learn and understand what you’re looking at. Page views, time on page, and bounce rates are key metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of your blog posts.
- Page views: the number of people who clicked on your post. By setting up a tracking funnel, you can see where visitors go from there on your site. Pay attention to the categories getting the most interest on your blog and site.
- Time on page: the amount of time visitors linger on your post. The more time they spend, the more likely it is they find the content useful. With Google, longer page times can have a positive impact on your page ranking. When you determine which posts are producing the most time on page, let that guide your content decisions for future posts.
- Bounce rate: the percentage of people who “bounce off” a page once they click on it. The lower the bounce rate, the better. High bounce rates indicate that visitors did not find what they were expecting, so they left. Posts with the lowest bounce rates contain the content your visitors are looking for.
Adjust and revise your content plan.
Once you’ve used your analytics to update your blog posts, check back regularly to make sure the desired change actually occurred. You won’t see an improvement overnight, so be patient. There are myriad resources available to help you set up analytics, maximize keywords, and the like, as well as professionals you can hire to help you establish an effective content and digital strategy.
Blogging takes time and effort, but if you’re intentional, committed, and authentic, it can be a very effective way to reach your target clients. If you’re an industry leader and have a point of view to share with your clients and prospects, we encourage you to write and post blogs. Download our blog checklist to keep you on track.
An abridged version of this post was originally featured in Financial Planning magazine in September 2018.